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Cablegate: Armed Assailants Attack U.S. Embassy, One Local

VZCZCXRO7996
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ
DE RUEHDM #4439 2551053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 121053Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1493
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0200
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 004439

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR WALLER, LONDON FOR TSOU, NEA/ELA FOR SONTY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL SY
SUBJECT: ARMED ASSAILANTS ATTACK U.S. EMBASSY, ONE LOCAL
GUARD WOUNDED


1. (U) Summary: At least four assailants attacked the U.S.
Embassy in Damascus at 1010 local time September 12, using
grenades, gunfire and two apparent car bombs. One car
exploded, but a van at the back gate did not. No U.S.
Embassy personnel were injured, with the exception of a local
guard who was injured by gunfire. The Embassy perimeter was
not breached. Three of the attackers died, and a fourth
attacker sustained injuries before being taken into custody
by Syrian security officers, who responded quickly to the
attack. There are reports that the driver of the van at the
back gate escaped. The Embassy will function at reduced
staffing for the rest of the day and tomorrow. An EAC cable
will follow septel. End Summary.

2. (U) At 1010 local time, at least four armed attackers
using grenades and gunfire attempted to explode two vehicles
at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. A car bomb exploded near
the front of the building, while a small van carrying a bomb
crashed into the back gate but failed to detonate. There was
a prolonged exchange of gunfire that lasted approximately 30
minutes. Three of the attackers were killed, and one injured
attacker was arrested by Syrian security officers, who
responded quickly to the attack. There are reports that the
driver of the van at the back gate escaped. No U.S. Embassy
personnel were injured and the attackers did not breach the
security perimeter. One local guard, who was outside the
building checking vehicles during the attack, suffered a
gunshot wound and is in stable condition at a local hospital.
Another Embassy guard suffered shock. Both are being
visited by the Embassy nurse. There may have been civilian
casualties.

3. (U) The Marines reacted effectively. Embassy staff
stayed in their offices until it became clear that a
non-detonated bomb remained in the attacker's vehicle at the
back gate. Then, after it had been determined that the
perimeter was safe, non-essential Embassy personnel were
evacuated from the Embassy and sent home. Syrian security
disarmed and removed the explosive device. The Damascus
Community School, which was scheduled to hold a half day
today, was notified while the attack was still underway, went
into lock-down, and then sent the students home. After the
attack, Embassy security personnel found unexploded grenades,
as well as body parts.

4. (U) The Embassy will function at reduced staffing for the
rest of the day. Post is drafting a warden message, which we
will clear with the Department as soon as possible. The
Embassy initiated the telephone tree and held an EAC, which
will be reported septel.

5. (U) Charge met with Syrian Interior Minister Maj. Gen.
Bassam Abdul Majeed in front of the Embassy as the Minister
coordinated security operations. Abdul Majeed pledged all
efforts to secure the location, including the establishment
of a security cordon around the Embassy. The attacker who
was arrested is providing information to Syrian security
authorities, according to Abdul Majeed. Separately, Syrian
Assistant FM Ahmad Arnous called the Charg to pledge full
security to the Embassy.

6. (U) Embassy Spokesman is issuing the following statement:
"The Embassy of the United States of America in Damascus,
Syria, came under armed attack at approximately 10:10 a.m.,
local time, on September 12, 2006. All Embassy personnel and
their family members are safe. One local Embassy guard was
injured by gunfire and is in stable condition at a local
hospital. The Embassy's Charge d'Affaires Michael Corbin,
has met with Syrian Minister of Interior Bassam Abdul Majeed
at the scene, and has spoken by phone with Assistant Minister
of Foreign Affairs Ahmad Arnous. The Syrian government has
pledged full security cooperation."
CORBIN

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