LISBON — A car bomb exploded today on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy, sparking a smoky fire in the garden and flames a story high. Embassy guards and other witnesses said there were no injuries.
Seconds after the blast, passers-by were seen running to the Embassy gates to stare at the burning hulk of the car used to bring the bomb onto the grounds.
A Portuguese security guard employed by the Embassy to check all vehicles entering the area said a man drove into the compound, jumped from the car and ran out the gates in a matter of seconds.
"I realized there was a bomb in the car, so I backed off," said the guard, who did not give his name. "No, no one was injured," he said, repeating: "Nobody was hurt at all; we kept back."
20 Feet Inside Gates
The burning car, a twisted and smoking wreck, was about 20 feet inside the compound gates. There was no apparent damage to the guardhouse, about 10 feet from the vehicle, or to other cars parked nearby.
The Embassy building itself, a brick and concrete structure formally dedicated last year, was more than 100 yards away and was apparently untouched by the blast.
In Washington, a State Department official said he was not aware of any casualties. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no immediate indication as to who was responsible for the bombing.
The U.S. Embassy, which is headed by former U.S. Information Agency director Frank Shakespeare, is on the northern outskirts of Lisbon.
Replaced Security Risk
Under construction for over four years, it replaced a downtown apartment building that was considered a security risk.
The new structure was reported to have been built with such strict security standards that window panes were thick enough to prevent potential spies with telescopes in a nearby hotel from taking long-lens photographs of documents on Embassy diplomats' desks.