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The Waco Siege: Countdown to disaster

The following is a chronology of events at the compound, where the FBI went on the offensive yesterday after a 51-day stand-off.

28 February: About 100 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation come under heavy fire when they attempt to raid the farm near Waco, Texas, which Koresh and 100 disciples of his Branch Davidian cult have turned into an armed camp. Four of the bureau's agents die and 16 are wounded before pulling back. The cult says several people died inside the compound.

1 March: Fearing a mass suicide, authorities, who came to arrest Koresh on charges of violating weapons laws, begin negotiations. Ten children, aged between five months and 11 years are rapidly freed. More than 500 police, backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and tanks, take up positions around the compound.

2 March: During a 58-minute broadcast on local radio, Koresh promises to surrender with all his disciples. He fails to come out but agrees to free six other children and the first two adults - two women aged 77 and 75.

3 March: Witnesses say the bodies of 10 cult members are inside the farm where there are about 110 people.

5 March: Koresh makes known in a phone call that he is awaiting instructions from God before considering his surrender.

6 March: The US Attorney General and the FBI say they are working toward a peaceful end to the crisis that is costing taxpayers a dollars 1m a week.

8 March: Koresh says he is 'ready for war.'

15 March: Since the start of the siege, Koresh has freed 21 children, but 17 others are still inside along with 47 women and 43 men, including some British and Australians.

16 March: NBC says it is making a TV film on the siege.

19 March: Seven people leave the compound, bringing the number freed to 34, including 21 children.

23 March: The FBI broadcasts Tibetan chants through speakers into the compound grounds to prevent cult members from sleeping.

25 March: An apparent religious fanatic succeeds in entering the besieged compound to joint cult members.

7 April: The Davidian cult celebrates Passover. Authorities hope the stand-off will end with the religious holiday.

10 April: Koresh has a letter delivered to the FBI in which he speaks of a vengeful God 'who authorises his chosen people to punish unbelievers'.

12 April: Koresh sends authorities a second letter.

14 April: Koresh promises to surrender after finishing a book on the Apocalypse, but the authorities say there is no indication this will happen.

19 April: On the 51st day of the stand-off, the FBI go on the offensive. Armoured vehicles punch holes in compound walls and launch tear-gas inside, after cult members ignore an FBI warning to surrender or be gassed. Cult members open fire on the armoured vehicles.