JERUSALEM – The attack today against the United States embassy in Damascus was orchestrated by American intelligence to embarrass the Syrian regime and extract political concessions, a senior member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath Party claimed to WND.
“We in the government are 100 percent sure America was behind this attack, which is not the same as other attacks by Islamic groups,” said the senior Baath party official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Only the Americans can succeed in carrying out an attack just 200 meters from President Assad’s residence in the most heavily guarded section of Syria,” the official said.
The official claimed the U.S. first directed the attack and then ensured it was foiled to “prove Syria is filled with terrorists and to put us in a weak position.”
The U.S. did not foil the attack, however. Syrian security forces reportedly stopped the assailants after a 30-minute shootout, although there were some reports U.S. Marines stationed at the embassy took part in the firefight.
The Baath official said the U.S. would use the attack to demand that Syria “pays the price with more collaboration with America in Lebanon and on the Iraq issue.”
The U.S. says Syria supports the insurgency against American troops in Iraq, accusing Damascus of allowing militants to cross its border and providing insurgents with intelligence and access to weaponry.
Syria and Iran are the largest sponsors of Hezbollah. Israel and the U.S. say Damascus and Tehran provide the Lebanese group with rockets, advance weaponry, military training, guidance and directions.
Four gunmen shouting Islamic slogans today attempted to attack the U.S. embassy in Damascus with a car bomb and grenades. Syrian security forces killed three of the attackers in a shootout.
According to a number of reports, one car bomb was detonated near the embassy, but it failed to penetrate the building. Some reports say a second car bomb attack was foiled.
State-run Syrian television broadcast footage of a small white van with what appeared to be explosives and gas cylinders in the back. The ruins of what looked like an exploded car could be seen beside the van.
Witnesses told reporters they saw the gunmen lob grenades at the U.S. Embassy’s eight-foot security wall. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the grenades made it over the barrier.
A shootout between the gunmen and Syrian security forces reportedly ended with three of the assailants being killed and a fourth being captured. One Syrian guard reportedly was killed and 13 people wounded, including a Chinese diplomat who reportedly was lightly injured by a stray bullet.
Syrian forces are in control of the area in central Damascus following the attack, Curtis Cooper, a U.S. State Department spokesman in Washington, told the Bloomberg news agency. Cooper said there was no information on any American casualties.
The U.S. Embassy is located in the Rawda district of Damascus, known to be one of the most heavily guarded parts of the Syrian capital. It houses security installations and the homes of government officials, including Assad’s main residence.
Today’s embassy attack – one day after the fifth anniversary of the Sept.11 terror attacks in the U.S. – was not the first assault against foreign government buildings in Damascus.
In April 2004, a United Nations office was bombed by unknown assailants.
In February, demonstrators protesting a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons that depicted Muhammad stormed the Danish consulate in Damascus and set it ablaze.