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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Damascus, 12 Sept. (AKI) - Three gunmen who attacked the US embassy in Damascus's downtown Rawda area on Tuesday were killed, authorities said. A fourth attacker was wounded and in custody, they said. It was not immediately clear however how many attackers were involved. At least one Syrian guard at the embassy also died but there were reportedly no US casualties. Several civilians were injured. Syrian interior minister Bassam Abd al-Majid said militants tried to blow up two cars in the attack but only one exploded while security forces successfully detonated a bomb in the second vehicle.

The identity of the terror group behind the operation is unknown, the interior minister said, adding that an investigation was under way.

News wires reported that the militants were chanting religious slogans during the attack.

Syrian security forces shut down the central neighbourhood after heavy gunfire and an explosion were first reported. The district also houses security installations and the homes of top government officials.

Officials have cracked down on Islamic militants in the past few months and four gunmen and a policeman died in June during a security operation which reportedly foiled a terror attack on the Damascus offices of Syria's state television.

Islamic unrest has been reported only sporadically in Syria since the early 1980s, when security forces suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood organisation.

In April 2004, four people were killed in an unprecedented clash between Syrian police and a team of bombers in Damascus. A policeman and a woman passer-by died along with two bombers after militants set off a car bomb near the Iranian and Canadian embassies in the city's upmarket Mazze district.
The US had recalled its ambassador from Syria in February 2005 after the assassination of Lebanon's former premier Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut which Washington blamed on Damascus.

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