Today in History, 16/12

2014 - The Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney ends with the deaths of Tori Johnson (R) and Katrina Dawson

Highlights in history on this date:

1653 - Oliver Cromwell becomes lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

1773 - American colonists, dressed as Indians, dump 342 chests of tea in the Boston Harbour, staging a protest against British taxation that becomes known as the Boston Tea Party.

1809 - Napoleon Bonaparte divorces Empress Josephine by an act of the French Senate.

1838 - Boers defeat Zulus on Blood River, Natal.

1916 - Gregory Rasputin, a monk who wielded powerful influence over the Russian Czar, is murdered by a group of noblemen in St. Petersburg.

1944 - German forces begin Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes area of Belgium in World War II.

1950 - US President Harry Truman proclaims a national state of emergency in order to fight Communist imperialism.

1960 - A United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collide over New York City, killing 134 people.

1966 - UN Security Council votes 11-0 to invoke economic sanctions against white minority government in Rhodesia.

1971 - Pakistani troops surrender East Pakistan after a war with its rebels and their Indian allies. The territory soon becomes the independent nation of Bangladesh.

1972 - US Apollo 17 spacecraft heads for Earth after the last US manned exploration of the Moon.

1985 - Reputed organised-crime chief Paul Castellano is shot to death outside a New York City restaurant.

1990 - Haitians elect populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the country's first fully democratic election.

1991 - The UN General Assembly rescinds its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by an 111-25 vote.

1997 - A UN team in Afghanistan reports finding mass graves with the bodies of what are thought to be 2000 Taliban soldiers captured by the Northern Alliance.

2000 - Hundreds of Polish nurses block international railways and border crossings across the country as part of mounting protests for higher pay.

2001 - After nine weeks of siege, Afghan tribal leaders claim victory over al-Qaeda guerillas at their last stronghold in Afghanistan.

2007 - British forces give Iraq responsibility for security in Basra province, the last remaining region under Britain's control.

2010 - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is released on bail but confined to a supporter's English estate as he fights Sweden's attempt to extradite him on allegations of rape and molestation.

2011 - Three Islamic extremists are jailed for 18 years for plotting to kill Australian soldiers in a terrorist attack on Sydney's Holsworthy Army Base.

2012 - A 23-year-old woman is brutally gang-raped on a private bus in Delhi and dies from her injuries 13 days later, in an incident that sparks national and international outrage.

2014 - A 16-hour siege inside the Lindt Cafe in Sydney's Martin Place ends with three deaths - hostages Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, and hostage taker Man Haron Monis.

2015 - Peter Fanning, 43-year-old brother of Australian surfer Mick Fanning, dies suddenly at his home in northern NSW.

2016 - Gambling giant Tabcorp is found guilty of illegally luring punters to open new accounts.

Today's Birthdays:

Jane Austen, English novelist (1775-1817); Sir Noel Coward, English dramatist-composer (1899-1973); Margaret Mead, American anthropologist (1901-1978); Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress (1937-); Benny Andersson, Swedish musician-composer, former member of ABBA (1946-); Benjamin Bratt, US actor (1963-); Georgie Parker, Australian actor (1964-); Miranda Otto, Australian actress (1967-); Zeljko Kalac, retired Australian soccer player (1972-).

Thought For Today:

Life means progress, and progress means suffering. - Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Dutch-born journalist and lecturer (1882-1944).