Armed sieges that ended in violent tragedy

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The San Bernardino mountain siege involving former US navy reservist Christopher Dorner ended exactly a week after police rescued a five-year-old boy following a stand-off with another violent former serviceman in Alabama.

Federal agents shot dead Vietnam veteran Jimmy Lee Dykes and snatched the boy to safety during a daring rescue in Midland City on 5 February. Dykes had taken the child from a school bus, killing the driver, a week earlier and kept him in an underground bunker.

Other sieges in the United States have ended in bloodshed. Two women hostages died in a botched escape bid by three convicts who took 11 jail workers and four other inmates captive at a prison in Huntsville, Texas, in 1974.

Authorities duped the kidnappers into believing they were being given an escape vehicle, then blasted them with fire hoses when they moved towards it. The women were shot and two of the kidnappers were killed in the ensuing gunfight, with the survivor, Ignacio Cuevas, executed in 1991.

The most violent siege also took place in Texas, in April 1993, when an FBI assault on the Branch Davidians religious sect in Waco ended in violence. Four FBI agents and six sect members died in a gun battle at the end of a 50-day stand-off, and a further 76 cult members, including children, were found dead after fire destroyed the compound.

The Waco siege became a cause for America’s militia movement, which viewed it as heavy-handed government intervention in a situation that could have been resolved.

It became a prime motivation for Timothy McVeigh, a former serviceman who detonated a truck bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City on 19 April, 1995, exactly two years after Waco. He killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured 450 others.