Ex-WTOP anchor remembers 1977 terrorist siege in DC

WASHINGTON — Forty years ago this week, armed terrorists stormed three D.C. buildings and took nearly 150 people hostage.

To commemorate the anniversary of the three-day Hanafi siege, a photo exhibit is currently on display at the Wilson Building.

Many of those photos are from the Washington Star archive, and some were never published. WTOP put together a video (above) that includes these photos.

Although the siege has largely been forgotten, a former WTOP newsman remembers it well.

Jim Bohannon, now a syndicated radio talk show host, was anchoring on WTOP on March 9, 1977, when word came in of trouble at three buildings, including what is now the Wilson Building.

“It quickly became apparent that these were three interconnected incidents, three hostage-takings, by a group known as Hanafi Muslims,” Bohannon told WTOP.

This is the entrance to the B’Nai B’Rith International headquarters in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 where four armed men are holding hostages. A sign over the entrance, right center, reads “Freedom for Soviet Jewry.” (AP Photo)
This is the entrance to the B’Nai B’Rith International headquarters in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 where four armed men are holding hostages. A sign over the entrance, right center, reads “Freedom for Soviet Jewry.” (AP Photo) (AP)
Then-Council member Marion Barry recovering after being hit by a stray shotgun pellet during the Hanfi Siege in D.C. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Then-Council member Marion Barry recovering after being hit by a stray shotgun pellet during the Hanfi Siege in D.C. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
WHUR radio journalist Maurice Williams was killed during the siege, at the District Building. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
WHUR radio journalist Maurice Williams was killed during the siege, at the District Building. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Security guard Mack Cantrell, who died as a result of the events during the Hanafi Siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Security guard Mack Cantrell, who died as a result of the events during the Hanafi Siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
This image of damage following the Hanafi Siege was shared as part of a new photo exhibit by the D.C. Council. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
This image of damage following the Hanafi Siege was shared as part of a new photo exhibit by the D.C. Council. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council's new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council’s new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council's new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council’s new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council's new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council’s new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Counci)
Police marksman Clarence Phillips stands with his rifle at the ready on the roof of a building near the District building in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 where gunmen are holding hostages. The District building, right, occupies a city block by itself. (AP Photo)
Police marksman Clarence Phillips stands with his rifle at the ready on the roof of a building near the District building in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 where gunmen are holding hostages. The District building, right, occupies a city block by itself. (AP Photo) (AP)
Police and rescue workers give first aid to a victim outside B’Nai B’Rith in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977. Gunmen have taken hostages inside. (AP Photo)
Police and rescue workers give first aid to a victim outside B’Nai B’Rith in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977. Gunmen have taken hostages inside. (AP Photo) (AP)
Rescue workers remove an injured person from B’Nai B’Rith is Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977. Armed gunmen are holding hostages inside the building, one of three locations in the nation’s capital where hostages have been taken. (AP Photo)
Rescue workers remove an injured person from B’Nai B’Rith is Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977. Armed gunmen are holding hostages inside the building, one of three locations in the nation’s capital where hostages have been taken. (AP Photo) (AP/Anonymous)
Lights burn around the District Building in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 as gunmen continue to hold hostages inside. The Washington Monument is visible behind and to the left. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)
Lights burn around the District Building in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 as gunmen continue to hold hostages inside. The Washington Monument is visible behind and to the left. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity) (AP/Charles Harrity)
Three ambassadors and others confer in the first floor area of Bnai Brith International headquarters where gunmen are holding hostages upstairs, Thursday, March 10, 1977, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)
Three ambassadors and others confer in the first floor area of B’Nai B’Rith International headquarters where gunmen are holding hostages upstairs, Thursday, March 10, 1977, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
A man identified by police as one of the hostages hauls up by rope a box of food to the top floor of the District Building in Washington, where gunmen are holding hostages, March 10, 1977. A man on the floor beneath uses a broom to push the box away from the building. (AP Photo)
A man identified by police as one of the hostages hauls up by rope a box of food to the top floor of the District Building in Washington, where gunmen are holding hostages, March 10, 1977. A man on the floor beneath uses a broom to push the box away from the building. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
Heavily armed police wearing protective vests arrive at their post near the Islamic center in Northwest Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 to relieve others who had been on duty all night watching the center where gunmen held hostages. It is one of three buildings in the capital where armed terrorists, believed to be members of the Hanafi Muslim sect, were holding hostages. (AP Photo)
Heavily armed police wearing protective vests arrive at their post near the Islamic center in Northwest Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 to relieve others who had been on duty all night watching the center where gunmen held hostages. It is one of three buildings in the capital where armed terrorists, believed to be members of the Hanafi Muslim sect, were holding hostages. (AP Photo) (AP)
A woman identified as Cecile B. Von Goetz is led away from the Islamic Center in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 following her release. Terrorists have taken over the center and are holding hostages. (AP Photo)
A woman identified as Cecile B. Von Goetz is led away from the Islamic Center in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 following her release. Terrorists have taken over the center and are holding hostages. (AP Photo) (AP/Anonymous)
A policeman carries a shotgun as he walks inside B’Nai B’Rith headquarters in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 where gunmen are holding people hostage. At right is a Menorah, holy candelabra. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)
A policeman carries a shotgun as he walks inside B’Nai B’Rith headquarters in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 where gunmen are holding people hostage. At right is a Menorah, holy candelabra. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi) (AP/Charles Tasnadi)
A police officer directs a pedestrian away from the district building where terrorists continue to hold hostages in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977. The terrorists, who also hold captives in two other buildings, began their siege on Wednesday. (AP Photo)
A police officer directs a pedestrian away from the district building where terrorists continue to hold hostages in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977. The terrorists, who also hold captives in two other buildings, began their siege on Wednesday. (AP Photo) (AP)
Police officers deliver a box of food to a door at the Islamic Center in Washington on March 10, 1977 where gunmen are holding 14 hostages on Thursday. The center is one of three buildings where terrorists are holding captives. (AP Photo)
Police officers deliver a box of food to a door at the Islamic Center in Washington on March 10, 1977 where gunmen are holding 14 hostages on Thursday. The center is one of three buildings where terrorists are holding captives. (AP Photo) (AP)
Then-District of Columbia Mayor Walter Washington stands center surrounded by newsmen inside the emergency command post in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977, where they were monitoring the hostage situation. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
Then-District of Columbia Mayor Walter Washington stands center surrounded by newsmen inside the emergency command post in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977, where they were monitoring the hostage situation. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges) (AP/Harvey Georges)
During the siege, the gunmen demanded that the film “Mohammad Messenger of God” be pulled from theaters. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)
During the siege, the gunmen demanded that the film “Mohammad Messenger of God” be pulled from theaters. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Ray Stubblebine)
A bus load of hostages leave the Bnai Brith International headquarters, background, following their release by gunmen, Friday, March 11, 1977, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)
A bus load of hostages leave the B’Nai B’Rith International headquarters, background, following their release by gunmen, Friday, March 11, 1977, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
A man spots and embraces a woman who was among several hostages sent to George Washington hospital following their release by gunmen in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977. The terrorists held up to 135 persons in three different buildings. (AP Photo)
A man spots and embraces a woman who was among several hostages sent to George Washington hospital following their release by gunmen in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977. The terrorists held up to 135 persons in three different buildings. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
An unidentified woman jumps off a bus at the Foundry Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 11, 1977 following her release by gunmen. Twelve black Hanafi Moslems held some 134 hostages in three Washington buildings for 38 hours before surrendering to police on Friday. (AP Photo)
An unidentified woman jumps off a bus at the Foundry Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 11, 1977 following her release by gunmen. Twelve black Hanafi Muslims held some 134 hostages in three Washington buildings for 38 hours before surrendering to police on Friday. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
Joseph Yeldell, right, who formerly headed the District’s Department of Human Resources, embraces an unidentified man at the District of Columbia Building in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977 after the man was released by terrorists who had held a group in the building since Wednesday. (AP Photo)
Joseph Yeldell, right, who formerly headed the District’s Department of Human Resources, embraces an unidentified man at the District of Columbia Building in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977 after the man was released by terrorists who had held a group in the building since Wednesday. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
Armed police officers stand by outside Superior Court in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977 as Hanafi Muslims arrive for asrraignment. The group held hostages in three locations in the nation’s capital. (AP Photo)
Armed police officers stand by outside Superior Court in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977 as Hanafi Muslims arrive for asrraignment. The group held hostages in three locations in the nation’s capital. (AP Photo) (AP/Anonymous)
Relatives and friends are reunited at Washington’s Foundry Methodist Church on Friday, March 11, 1977 after hostages were released by terrorists who had held them in three buildings since Wednesday. (AP Photo)
Relatives and friends are reunited at Washington’s Foundry Methodist Church on Friday, March 11, 1977 after hostages were released by terrorists who had held them in three buildings since Wednesday. (AP Photo) (AP)
Veiled Begum Khadyja, left, wife of the Hanafi Muslim sect leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, reads a statement to reporters in Washington on Thursday, March 17, 1977 in answer to a statement made by Rabbi Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League. Kahane said his JDL will mass in front of the Washington headquarters of the Hanafis and challenge them to fight. The Hanafi warned the JDL ‘that they will write their epitaph in self-destruction and the blood of their people. Woman at right is unidentified. (AP Photo)
Veiled Begum Khadyja, left, wife of the Hanafi Muslim sect leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, reads a statement to reporters in Washington on Thursday, March 17, 1977 in answer to a statement made by Rabbi Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League. Kahane said his JDL will mass in front of the Washington headquarters of the Hanafis and challenge them to fight. The Hanafi warned the JDL ‘that they will write their epitaph in self-destruction and the blood of their people. Woman at right is unidentified. (AP Photo) (AP)
This is the Hanafi Muslim headquarters, in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977, located next door to the Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah Congregation. In foreground is guard armed with a sword. (AP Photo)
This is the Hanafi Muslim headquarters, in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977, located next door to the Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah Congregation. In foreground is guard armed with a sword. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
The Hanafi Movement members involved in the siege were tried and convicted. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Hamaas Abdul Khaalis died in 2003. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Hamaas Abdul Khaalis died in 2003. (Courtesy D.C. Council) (Courtesy D.C. Council)
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This is the entrance to the B’Nai B’Rith International headquarters in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 where four armed men are holding hostages. A sign over the entrance, right center, reads “Freedom for Soviet Jewry.” (AP Photo)
Then-Council member Marion Barry recovering after being hit by a stray shotgun pellet during the Hanfi Siege in D.C. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
WHUR radio journalist Maurice Williams was killed during the siege, at the District Building. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Security guard Mack Cantrell, who died as a result of the events during the Hanafi Siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
This image of damage following the Hanafi Siege was shared as part of a new photo exhibit by the D.C. Council. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council's new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council's new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Aftermath of the Hanafi Siege, seen in an image shared as part of the D.C. Council's new photo exhibit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the siege. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
Police marksman Clarence Phillips stands with his rifle at the ready on the roof of a building near the District building in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 where gunmen are holding hostages. The District building, right, occupies a city block by itself. (AP Photo)
Police and rescue workers give first aid to a victim outside B’Nai B’Rith in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977. Gunmen have taken hostages inside. (AP Photo)
Rescue workers remove an injured person from B’Nai B’Rith is Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977. Armed gunmen are holding hostages inside the building, one of three locations in the nation’s capital where hostages have been taken. (AP Photo)
Lights burn around the District Building in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 1977 as gunmen continue to hold hostages inside. The Washington Monument is visible behind and to the left. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)
Three ambassadors and others confer in the first floor area of Bnai Brith International headquarters where gunmen are holding hostages upstairs, Thursday, March 10, 1977, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)
A man identified by police as one of the hostages hauls up by rope a box of food to the top floor of the District Building in Washington, where gunmen are holding hostages, March 10, 1977. A man on the floor beneath uses a broom to push the box away from the building. (AP Photo)
Heavily armed police wearing protective vests arrive at their post near the Islamic center in Northwest Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 to relieve others who had been on duty all night watching the center where gunmen held hostages. It is one of three buildings in the capital where armed terrorists, believed to be members of the Hanafi Muslim sect, were holding hostages. (AP Photo)
A woman identified as Cecile B. Von Goetz is led away from the Islamic Center in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 following her release. Terrorists have taken over the center and are holding hostages. (AP Photo)
A policeman carries a shotgun as he walks inside B’Nai B’Rith headquarters in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977 where gunmen are holding people hostage. At right is a Menorah, holy candelabra. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)
A police officer directs a pedestrian away from the district building where terrorists continue to hold hostages in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977. The terrorists, who also hold captives in two other buildings, began their siege on Wednesday. (AP Photo)
Police officers deliver a box of food to a door at the Islamic Center in Washington on March 10, 1977 where gunmen are holding 14 hostages on Thursday. The center is one of three buildings where terrorists are holding captives. (AP Photo)
Then-District of Columbia Mayor Walter Washington stands center surrounded by newsmen inside the emergency command post in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 1977, where they were monitoring the hostage situation. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
During the siege, the gunmen demanded that the film “Mohammad Messenger of God” be pulled from theaters. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)
A bus load of hostages leave the Bnai Brith International headquarters, background, following their release by gunmen, Friday, March 11, 1977, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)
A man spots and embraces a woman who was among several hostages sent to George Washington hospital following their release by gunmen in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977. The terrorists held up to 135 persons in three different buildings. (AP Photo)
An unidentified woman jumps off a bus at the Foundry Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 11, 1977 following her release by gunmen. Twelve black Hanafi Moslems held some 134 hostages in three Washington buildings for 38 hours before surrendering to police on Friday. (AP Photo)
Joseph Yeldell, right, who formerly headed the District’s Department of Human Resources, embraces an unidentified man at the District of Columbia Building in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977 after the man was released by terrorists who had held a group in the building since Wednesday. (AP Photo)
Armed police officers stand by outside Superior Court in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977 as Hanafi Muslims arrive for asrraignment. The group held hostages in three locations in the nation’s capital. (AP Photo)
Relatives and friends are reunited at Washington’s Foundry Methodist Church on Friday, March 11, 1977 after hostages were released by terrorists who had held them in three buildings since Wednesday. (AP Photo)
Veiled Begum Khadyja, left, wife of the Hanafi Muslim sect leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, reads a statement to reporters in Washington on Thursday, March 17, 1977 in answer to a statement made by Rabbi Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League. Kahane said his JDL will mass in front of the Washington headquarters of the Hanafis and challenge them to fight. The Hanafi warned the JDL ‘that they will write their epitaph in self-destruction and the blood of their people. Woman at right is unidentified. (AP Photo)
This is the Hanafi Muslim headquarters, in Washington on Friday, March 11, 1977, located next door to the Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah Congregation. In foreground is guard armed with a sword. (AP Photo)
Hamaas Abdul Khaalis died in 2003. (Courtesy D.C. Council)
The group’s leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, had left the Nation of Islam to found the Hanafi Movement.

A few years prior to the siege, seven members of Khaalis’ family were murdered at his D.C. home, and one of his demands during the siege was to have the convicted killers handed over to him.

During the hostage crisis, Khaalis was listening to Bohannon on WTOP.

“I made reference to them as ‘apparently a black Muslim group,’ not realizing that the term ‘black Muslims’ referred to the main body of black Muslims who were in literal war with the Hanafi Muslim sect.”

Khaalis called the station and demanded that Bohannon apologize on TV. “Or he would, as he put it, start cutting off heads, putting them in paper bags, and tossing them out the window,” Bohannon said.

He made his apology on WTOP-TV, what today is Channel 9.

In those days, the radio and TV stations were in the same building, so all Bohannon had to do was go downstairs.

WHUR reporter Maurice Williams was shot and killed during the siege. Another person shot – security guard Mack Cantrell – died days later. Marion Barry, then a Council member, was also hit by a stray shotgun pellet.

Bohannon will never forget how breaking news turned his air shift into a marathon.

“I anchored that first day the longest stint of my life continuously on air, from 10 a.m. the day it started until 7 a.m. the following morning — 21 consecutive hours.”

Eventually, ambassadors from three countries — Egypt, Iran and Pakistan — helped bring the siege to an end.

“We should remember it because it was one of the first acts of serious domestic terrorism,” said Bohannon, who can still be heard on D.C. airwaves from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. weeknights on WFED.

The exhibit of nearly 40 photos will be on display at the Wilson Building for about the next two weeks.


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