Some of the 500 Iraqi prisoners captured in the 1980-88 war pictured before their release. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

1997 Iran unilaterally freed 500 Iraqi prisoners of war in a “humane” gesture to its former enemy. The release was requested by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and approved by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Unfortunately, the issue of the PoWs has been dragging too long because of the lack of cooperation between the two countries,” Khatami said in a letter to Khamenei. “I hope for a unilateral release of these prisoners because it is a humane thing to do.” The former prisoners attended a lunch and a ceremony at a hall in Nazaran military base east of Tehran before they boarded buses for the border, where they will be handed over to the Iraqi authorities. Some of the Iraqis wept and others shouted slogans against the United States. General Abdullah Najafi, the head of the commission on PoWs, urged Iraq to take steps to release Iranians it captured during the 1980-1988 war.

Other important events

1815 The Kingdom of Poland adopts its constitution.

1895 Alfred Nobel establishes Nobel Prize.

1912 Spain declares a protectorate over the north shore of Morocco.

1919 Bulgaria signs First World War peace treaty, which yields territory to Greece and Yugoslavia.

1940 Germany annexes French province of Lorraine during Second World War.

1950 United Nations troops retreat in Korea.

1962 Britain agrees to provide arms to India to resist Chinese aggression.

1966 Uruguay adopts constitution.

1971 Soviet Mars 2 becomes 1st spacecraft to crash land on Mars.

1973 US Senate votes 92-3 to confirm Gerald R. Ford as Vice-President, succeeding Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned.

1979 First day-night one-day cricket international is played at Sydney cricket ground, between Australia and West Indies.

1984 Top British diplomat Percy Norris is shot dead in Mumbai.

1987 Rescue workers battle through floods in central Philippines after Typhoon Nina killed at least 450 people.

1989 Colombian airplane crashes, killing 107 people.

1990 John Major becomes British prime minister.

1992 Fire engulfs part of Vienna’s imperial Hofburg palace and intense heat completely destroyed an ornate hall.

1994 Fire in disco in Fuxin, North-China, 233 killed.

1995 Liamine Zeroual is sworn in as the Algerian President.

1996 A gas explosion in a coal mine in Shanxi province of China kills at least 91 miners.

1998 Alan Chilton of Britain wins the first-ever Dubai Marathon event.

1999 Prime Minister Jenny Shipley concedes defeat in New Zealand’s general elections.

2005 The world’s first partial face transplant was carried out in France.

2006 Two rivers in Somalia swell, flooding hundreds of villages and sending thousands fleeing to high ground.

2007 Ras Al Khaimah Municipality bans the smoking of shisha in all public facilities.

2009 A Russian train Nevsky Express crashes near the border of the Novgorod and Tver provinces, killing 26 passengers.

2011 The Arab League slaps stringent sanctions on Syria.

2013 Dubai wins bid to host the World Expo 2020.

2014 A suicide bomber on a motorbike attack a British embassy in Kabul, killing at least five Afghans.

2016 Lewis Hamilton wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.