U.S. Embassy Attacked by Terrorists in Syrian Capital, Damascus

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Aug 14, 2006
U.S. Embassy Attacked by Terrorists in Syrian Capital, Damascus

By Brian Lysaght and Dan Williams
Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Embassy in Damascus was attacked by terrorists today who exchanged gunfire with Syrian security forces, the U.S. State Department said. There were no American casualties.
The incident is over and Syrian forces are in control of the site, the State Department said in a statement read out by a U.S. Embassy official in London.
Three assailants were killed by security forces in the attack, Agence France-Presse reported, citing comments by Syria's interior minister.
The blasts were in the Ain Remmeneh district, where the U.S. and several other foreign missions are located. U.K. Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, in a telephone interview with Cable News Network, said the attack appeared to be the work of a small group and the tactics used didn't resemble those of al-Qaeda.
There was a firefight lasting about 30 minutes and grenade explosions and smoke rose from near the U.S. Embassy, Colonel Julian Lyne-Pirkis, Defense Attache in the British Embassy in Damascus, said in a telephone interview.
``We heard explosions and gunfire and there was a big plume of smoke. Initially we thought that was the embassy on fire but we now think it may be a vehicle,'' he said.
Nabil Samman, who heads the Center for Documentation and Research, a Damascus consultant, said that one car exploded in front of the U.S. Embassy and that a second also drove up, but didn't explode. ``Syrian sappers are trying to neutralize it,'' he said by telephone from near the embassy.
``There are at least one hundred police around the area. People are very nervous,'' he said.
Tightly Controlled
Damascus is a tightly controlled capital with a heavy police presence. In April, 2004, a United Nations office was bombed under circumstances that were never explained. This year, demonstrators protested publication of cartoons that depicted Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, by a Danish newspaper.
``I was sleeping and then I heard shots. First I thought it was firecrackers. Then there was an explosion,'' said Kareem Abdul Rahman, a baker who lives in Rawda, in a telephone interview.
Abdul Rahman said that sirens sounded and he saw two ambulances motoring to the area. Gunfire broke out at about 9:30 a.m., he said.
The U.S. recalled its ambassador from Syria in February 2005, after Syrian officials were implicated in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.