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Fourth Damascus Embassy Attacker Dies

The only Islamic militant arrested in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus has died from 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.

Meanwhile, the head of Syria's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Sadr el Din al Bayanouni, claims the attack was staged by the government, reports . Al Bayanouni claims it would be impossible for attackers to enter such a heavily-guarded neighborhood without government help.

Syria is a police state, with a fierce reputation for keeping a lid on violence when it wants to, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Roth. Syrian security did stop the assault here from succeeding, but only after it had been launched.

(CBS)
The attackers came in two cars, 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.

At first, authorities said the man was being questioned, reports Roth. Syria also now says all four of the attackers were Syrian citizens, not foreigners

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

(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
On Wednesday, the Embassy and the streets around it were bustling, Roth said. There was plenty of traffic and people, but the area was swarming with armed security. There were scars on the Embassy's 15-foot-high walls from the gunfire, and still-shattered glass in a guard booth that fronts on the U.S. compound.

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

White House spokesman 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. "The U.S. should ... start looking at the root causes of terrorism and broker a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

It curtly said that Syria "performed its duties" under the Geneva Conventions to protect the embassy.

There was no claim of responsibility the attack but suspicion immediately fell on a little-known al Qaeda offshoot called Jund al-Sham, Arabic for Soldiers of Syria.

Syria's ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha, told The Associated Press it was too early to know who was behind the attack, but "it's logically possible" that Jund al-Sham was responsible.

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