There are conflicting reports about what happened during the attack. According to the Associated Press, the terrorists had a least one van rigged with explosives and used rifles and hand grenades to attack the building. According to Syrian state television, the attackers failed to detonate a car laden with explosives. However, Associated Press reports an eyewitness saying a second vehicle did explode, and TV footage shows the wreckage of a burned car.
The terrorists exchanged heavy gunfire with the Syrian security guards and then, according to the BBC, two of the attackers sought refuge in a nearby building, where they were pursued and shot by the security forces.
Interior Minister General Bassam Abdel Majid speaking on Syrian state television said that, "A terrorist operation targeted the US embassy. Security forces have brought the situation under control." He added that "three terrorists were killed and one was wounded." There are also reports that at least one Syrian security guard died in the attack.
There are no reports of any American casualties. However, a Chinese diplomat was wounded during the attack. He was injured while standing on top of the Chinese embassy building which is situated near the US embassy.
Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene and security forces sealed off the Rawda area, which houses other embassies and security installations.
The attack comes at a time of strained relations between the United States and Syria. Washington withdrew its ambassador from Damascus, following the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, which the US blamed on Syria. The White House has accused President Bashar al-Assad of supporting terrorism in Iraq, and of backing Hezbollah and Hamas, while Syria has criticised US policies in the region, including the war in Iraq and the ongoing support for Israel.
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