U.S. Official: Syria's Failure To Protect U.S. Embassy Is 'Outrageous'

Originally published on July 11, 2011 3:35 pm

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad stormed the United States Embassy in Damascus, today. The attacks came a week after U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford visited the city of Hama, where thousands of anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets, and a day after Ford issued a statement condemning the Syrian government for what he said were attacks on peaceful demonstrators.

NPR's Deborah Amos, who's in Damascus, reports that protesters threw rocks, fruit and eggs at the embassy. Protesters also painted graffiti on the embassy walls. Deborah reports that she saw broken glass and lots of Syrian police watching the protesters and that the French embassy was much harder hit.

Here's how Deborah set the scene for our Newscast unit:

Quoting an unnamed U.S. official, The Washington Post reports that about 10 protesters broke into the embassy and three of them climbed onto the roof:

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused the Syrian government of facilitating the attack and of being slow to respond after the embassy appealed for help.

"It was evident that the Syrian government orchestrated it using buses to transport and deliver the protesters," the official said, adding that security forces took at least an hour to arrive and disperse the crowd.

At around the same time, protesters also stormed the French embassy, prompting French embassy guards to open fire over the heads of the crowd, according to witnesses.

NPR's Michele Kelemen said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. is seeking compensation for the damage at the embassy. Nuland also suggested it was a Syrian TV station close to the government that incited the attacks.

"We consider that the Syrian government has not lived up to its obligations ... to protect diplomatic facilities and it is absolutely outrageous," Nuland said.

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