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Gunman who tried to attack U.S. Embassy in Lebanon shot and captured by Lebanese forces

Gunman attempts attack on U.S. Embassy in Lebanon
Gunman attempts attack on U.S. Embassy in Lebanon 02:13

Beirut — A gunman was shot and captured by Lebanese soldiers after attempting to attack the U.S. Embassy Wednesday, the Lebanese military said. The embassy is outside Beirut.

The attack took place as tension continued to simmer in the tiny Mediterranean country, where months of fighting between Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops has displaced thousands along the two countries' shared border. 

The cross-border tension has escalated recently, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — under pressure from far-right members of his cabinet to go after Hezbollah — visited the northern border area Wednesday and warned that his government was prepared to take "very strong action" against the Iran-backed group.

The Lebanese military said in a statement that soldiers shot one assailant, whom they described only as a Syrian national. The gunman was taken to a hospital.

Lebanese police man a checkpoint near the U.S. embassy in Awkar
Lebanese police man a checkpoint near the U.S. Embassy in Awkar, Lebanon on June 5, 2024. Mohamed Azakir/REUTERS

The U.S. Embassy said small arms fire was reported near its entrance but the gunfire didn't wound any of its staff members and that Lebanese troops and embassy security mobilized quickly. In a statement posted online, the embassy said it would remain closed to the public on Wednesday but planned to reopen "for general business as usual" from Thursday.

The embassy urged U.S. citizens in Lebanon to monitor the State Department website for alerts relevant to the country and warned Americans against all travel to Lebanon's border regions with both Israel and Syria.

"In all parts of Lebanon, you should avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests," the embassy said.

A Lebanese security official earlier told The Associated Press there were four assailants, including one who drove the gunmen to the site and three who opened fire, and some local media also reported multiple suspects, but official accounts mentioned only one shooter and videos from the scene showed security forces engaging with only one person. 

The motive wasn't immediately clear, but Lebanese media published photos that appear to show a bloodied attacker wearing a black vest with the words "Islamic State" written in Arabic and the English initials "I" and "S." ISIS is also known as the Islamic State.

Local media reported a gunfight for almost half an hour near the U.S. diplomatic mission in the suburb of Aukar, north of Beirut.

CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab reports that the U.S. Embassy compound just north of Beirut is an extremely secured area, with several checkpoints to cross before you can get anywhere near its entrance.  

Lebanese army says gunman opened fire at US Embassy in Beirut
Lebanese troops take security measures in the region after the army said a gunman tried to attack the U.S. Embassy outside Beirut. Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu via Getty Images

A statement from Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's office said he was informed following meetings with the defense minister and army commander that the situation was stable and that investigations were underway.  

The Lebanese military said it deployed troops around the embassy and surrounding areas.

In 1983, a deadly bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killed 63 people. U.S. officials blamed the attack on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Following that attack, the embassy was moved from central Beirut to the Christian suburb of Aukar, north of the capital. Another bomb attack struck the new location on Sept. 20, 1984.

In September 2023, Lebanese security forces detained a Lebanese man who opened fire by the U.S. Embassy. There were no casualties in that attack.

In October 2023, hundreds of protesters clashed with Lebanese security forces in demonstrations near the U.S. Embassy in support of Gaza's people and the militant group Hamas in its war with Israel.

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