SUSPECTED Islamist militants launched a bold daylight attack yesterday on the American Embassy in Damascus, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns at the heavily guarded building.
The assault began shortly after 10am when four men stepped out of a car beside the white-walled embassy compound in the Ain Roumeineh district of Damascus, shouted "Allahu akbar", Arabic for God is greatest, and opened fire at Syrian security guards.
"It was like a movie. I couldn't believe what was happening here in the most secure zone in all of Damascus," Ayman Abdel-Nour, a Syrian MP and reform campaigner who witnessed the gun battle, told The Times. "They opened fire and I saw a security man fall to the ground covered in blood. I knew then it wasn't a movie and started to run."
Mr Abdel-Nour said that the battle lasted about 15 minutes and that he heard several explosions. "They were firing rocket-propelled grenades. I could see smoke coming from behind the embassy wall and a couple of broken windows."
The attackers were chased down the street by Syrian security forces, who killed three of them. "A terrorist operation targeted the US Embassy. Security forces have brought the situation under control. Three terrorists were killed and one was wounded," General Bassam Abdel Majid, the Interior Minister, said. "Home-made bombs and automatic weapons were used during the terrorist attack," he added.
The state news agency also reported that Syrian security forces also thwarted a car bomb attack, defusing explosives packed into a vehicle parked in front of the mission.