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4th Gunman in Syrian Attack Dies

Authorities were unable to question the militant, who was wounded in the U.S. Embassy assault.

September 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria — The only Islamic militant arrested in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus has died of his wounds, and authorities were unable to question him, a Syrian official and the government media said Wednesday.

The man, who was shot as he fled an explosives-laden truck without detonating it, died in a hospital Tuesday, said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The three other attackers were killed in Tuesday's brazen assault on the embassy. Syrian guards exchanged gunfire outside the compound's walls with the assailants, who shouted, "God is great!" and tried to storm in with automatic weapons and hand grenades.

The attackers came in two vehicles, one of them an explosives-laden pickup truck. The first car pulled up in front of the embassy's entrance and three gunmen burst out.

At the same time, the truck -- filled with pipe bombs rigged to gas canisters -- pulled up to another gate on the other side of the triangular compound. But when the shooting began, the driver ran away without detonating it. He was shot and arrested, and the truck did not explode.

Syrian authorities were not able to interrogate him because he was in critical condition before he died, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said. All four of the alleged attackers were Syrian citizens, SANA reported.

A Syrian guard was killed in the shooting, and 10 civilians and a Chinese diplomat were injured. No Americans were hurt.

The rapid response by Syrian guards won rare praise from the United States, which accuses President Bashar Assad's government of supporting terrorism in its backing of Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militants.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow also thanked Syrian officials and called for Damascus to "become an ally and make the choice of fighting against terrorists."

But Syria responded with a sharp criticism of Washington, blaming its policies in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories for increasing Islamic militancy.

"It is regrettable that U.S. policies in the Middle East have fueled extremism, terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiment," the Syrian Embassy in Washington said in a statement.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on a little-known group called Jund al Sham, which is allegedly linked to Al Qaeda.

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