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Exclusive - U.S. Embassy Terror Attack


A U.S. government surveillance tape, obtained by ABC News, reveals in graphic detail the attack on the American embassy in Damascus, Syria, this September and raises new questions about the role of the Syrian government. The tape will be seen tonight on ABC World News and Nightline. Watch the webcast with expert analysis. Some U.S. diplomats have privately questioned whether Syria was behind the plot, or learned of it in advance, and let it take place in order to take credit for stopping it. "This is one of the most closely guarded areas in Damascus in an authoritarian state. It's so unlikely that something like this, of this nature and scale, could happen," said David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The video shows three of the four attackers, armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades, attempting to storm the embassy's front gate. A civilian is seen falling to the ground, cut down by the attackers' gunfire. Syrian troops across the street from the embassy engage the attackers in a ten-minute gun battle, and the tape shows three of the attackers being felled one by one. Syrian authorities said a fourth member of the attack teams, whose van loaded with explosives failed to detonate, died later from his wounds. The tape shows the fourth attacker attempting to leave the scene under his own power. FBI agents assigned to investigate all attacks on U.S. embassies were denied permission to enter Syria, and U.S. authorities were never told what the fourth attacker may have said before he died. "He's the absolute key to what happened and to determine the other players that were at the location. What was the cause of the bombing? In other words, who wanted it done?" said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant, who viewed the attack tape. "I mean, he's basically the lynchpin of figuring out what happened," Garrett said. Garrett and other security experts who viewed the tape say the attack appears poorly planned and not likely the work of the usually well-organized al Qaeda. The attackers did not breach the heavily fortified walls of the embassy, which is situated on a heavily traveled street in Damascus. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice publicly thanked the Syrians for stopping the attack saying they are expected to protect foreign embassies. The Syrian government concluded the attack was planned in Saudi Arabia and that the four attackers were Syrian with no links to al Qaeda. Privately, some U.S. diplomats continue to believe the Syrians played a role in making, or letting it happen, so they could appear to be the heroes who stopped it. Syria is considered by the United States to be a state that supports terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon. "In fact, Syria has played a double game with terrorists for decades," said Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The people that are in the Syrian military who died defending the U.S. embassy are cannon fodder; the regime obviously does not really care about this," Schenker said. The Syrian embassy in Washington, D.C., said today that there have been no recent developments in regards to the investigation into the attack. December 20, 2006


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