From the AP:
Islamic militants attempted to storm the U.S. Embassy in Damascus on Tuesday using automatic rifles, hand grenades and at least one van rigged with explosives, the government said. Four people were killed in the brazen attack, including three of the assailants.
No Americans were hurt, and the attackers apparently did not breach the high walls surrounding the embassy’s white compound in the city’s diplomatic neighborhood.
But one of Syria’s anti-terrorism forces was killed and at least 11 others were injured, the country’s official news agency reported. The wounded including a police officer, two Iraqis and seven people employed at nearby technical workshop.
A Chinese diplomat also was hit in the face by shrapnel and slightly injured while standing on top of a garage at the Chinese Embassy, China’s government news agency said.
A witness said one Syrian guard outside the embassy also was killed, but the government did not immediately confirm that. At the embassy in Damascus, as at most American embassies worldwide, a local guard force patrols outside the compound’s walls while U.S. Marine guards are mostly responsible for guarding classified documents and fighting off attackers inside the compound.
Witnesses also said the gunmen tried to throw hand grenades into the embassy compound, shouting “Allah Akbar!” or “God is great!” It was not clear if any of the grenades made it over the walls, which are about 8 feet high.
The attack came at a time of high tension between the United States and Syria over the recent Israeli-Hezbollah war in neighboring Lebanon. In Damascus the sentiment has become increasingly anti- American sentiment.
Syria has seen previous attacks by Islamic militants. In June, Syrian anti-terrorism police fought Islamic militants near the Defense Ministry in a gunbattle that killed five people and wounded four.
After Tuesday’s attack, pools of blood lay splattered on the sidewalk outside the embassy, along with a burned car apparently used by the attackers. A sports utility vehicle with U.S. diplomatic tags had a bullet hole through its front window, and the glass windows of nearby guard houses also were shattered.
We’re waiting on a statement from the White House.
The UK Times Online has more information:
Syrian officials [said] that the attack started at around 10am (0700GMT), when the four men pulled up in two vehicles outside the embassy in the Rawda area which also houses vital security installations, the houses of senior Syrian officials and other embassies.
Although initial reports were confused it appears that the men lobbed grenades at the building and shot at Syrian sentries, one of whom was reported to have been killed, although that was not confirmed.
During the shootout, two of the men were said to have taken refuge in a nearby building, but were chased down by Syrian security forces. One car bomb exploded but a second was safely defused, officials said. In all, the incident lasted about 20 minutes.
Ayman Abdel-Nour, a Syrian political commentator who witnessed the attack, said at least one Syrian security guard had been killed by the attackers, who had been shouting Islamic slogans.
He added: “I saw two men in plain clothes and armed with grenades and automatic weapons.
“They ran toward the compound shouting religious slogans while firing their automatic rifles.”
Syrian state television said the attackers had tried but failed to detonate a car bomb.
Television footage of the scene showed a van packed with gas canisters and detonators taped to them, as well as bloodstains on the pavement and several damaged vehicles, including a white bullet-riddled car that a truck was preparing to haul away.
It sounds like the terrorists wanted to kill the Syrian guards outside the embassy and then use the car bombs to blow a hole in the protective wall to get in. If they had succeeded, they would have met the US Marines who are protecting the embassy from the inside. We need to be prepared for other attacks on American interests overseas.
Analysts on Fox News are speculating it may be the Muslim Brotherhood that is behind this attack. Does it really matter, though, which Islamofascist group is behind it? The point is that, again, they will not stop trying to kill us.
Update: David Schenker at Counterterrorism Blog has some insightful analysis, including this:
The true details of what happened today in Damascus may never emerge. The Asad regime, of course, will look to exploit the security “success” to try and entice US and European engagement. Still, it’s important to note that this attack comes just one week after the attempted assassination in Lebanon of Lieutenant Colonel Samir Shehade, deputy chief of the intelligence department in Lebanon’s national police force, responsible for the investigation into the killing of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri. The Syrians have been implicated in the Hariri assassination–and are likely involved in the Shehade business as well.
In terms of context, though, the key point is that if this attack was indeed perpetrated by Islamists, it is the direct result of the double game being played by the Asad regime. The regime supports Sunni and Shiite Islamist militants in Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, and Iraq, and in the past has not acted against terrorists entering Jordan. Syria no longer cooperates with the US on Al Qaida, either. Given the regime’s friendly disposition toward terrorists, it would be no surprise if some unauthorized terrorist organizations were setting up shop in Damascus.