"In Case of Hostage Crisis, Dig Through Floor" Part I

Continuing the blog’s theme of science- and history-themed awesomeness, this week we visit the wonderful world of defusing hostage situations. 


On December 17, 1996, 500 foreign dignitaries were kidnapped at the home of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru by a terrorist group called the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Although there were only 14 MRTA members present, they managed to successfully hold the dignitaries hostage for over four months. How? 

  1. 1.      The SWAT teams that were initially sent in were practically useless. According to the website Badass Of The Week, “When the SWAT guys tried to launch tear gas through the windows, the terrorists pulled out…gas masks and kept firing.”
    2.     The MRTA organization as a whole was armed to the teeth and widely feared for their brutality. 
    3.     The building itself was bulletproof, grenadeproof and generally everything-proof. It was so secure that the terrorists had to use explosives to blast their way inside. Once they got cozy, they further upped the security by planting land mines on the mansion grounds and installing AA (anti-aircraft) guns on the roof.
Peruvian military planners were met with an old yet pressing problem. How to safely extract the hostages with as small a loss of life (on the hostages’ part) as possible? Their answer came in the awesomely insane—or insanely awesome—rescue mission known as Operation Chavin de Huantar. 


A bit of background: the operation was named after a Pre-Incan people called the Chavin, which built a flourishing civilization in the city of Huantar in Peru. The Chavin built an intricate network of tunnels running underneath their city, and used them as a kind of bomb shelter during times of attack (remember that). The planners of the Operation would follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, and integrated the use of tunnels into the plan. However, they took the tunnel idea and went a few (insane) steps forward with it, adding explosive charges and an Army From Hell into the mix. 

If this doesn’t qualify as an Army From Hell, I don’t know what will (badassoftheweek.com)


When the plan was finally hashed out, preparations commenced. If you don’t want your mind blown by the audacious insanity of it, please look away now.

To successfully take down a notorious, very well-armed and very dangerous terrorist cell, you need guys who know what they’re doing and preferably have guns on them. 142 (that’s 70 plus 70 plus 2) Peruvian Special Forces commandos were hand-picked for the mission and trained by US Special Forces, thus giving them a level of butt-kickery Chuck Norris would envy and officially rendering them immune to fear.

While Special Forces training of any nation is generally considered insane, the training methods for Operation Chavin de Huantar were so outrageously audacious that it’s a wonder they pulled it off. They built an exact replica of the mansion on a nearby island, set up shop, and spent an entire year practicing for the mission. This was all done in total secrecy, of course.

How they could effectively hide a building like this from prying eyes, I have no idea.

Back on the mainland, journalists and newsmen were sent into the mansion, ostensibly to interview the terrorists, but in reality to gather as much intel as they could about the conditions inside. Meanwhile, a system of nine heated and ventilated tunnels was being dug underneath the real mansion, with the police above-ground blasting loud music and blaring sirens to cover the sound of the drilling. The hostages were brought up to speed on the operation by the journalists, but the terrorists were completely unaware of the awesomeness that was about to happen. 

On April 22, 1997, the awesomeness happened. 

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