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Lebanon Investigates Shooting Incident Near US Embassy

In a rare incident, an unknown assailant reportedly fired shots near entrance to the US embassy outside Beirut.

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s security agencies opened an investigation Thursday into a late-night shooting on Wednesday outside the US embassy, according to US and Lebanese officials.

“At 10:37 p.m. local time, small arms fire was reported in the vicinity of the entrance to the US embassy,” Jake Nelson, an embassy spokesperson, confirmed in a press statement. “There were no injuries, and our facility is safe.”

Nelson added, “We are in close contact with host country law enforcement authorities.” The embassy is located in the town of Awkar, north of Beirut in the Metn district. 

A Lebanese official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that local security agencies had launched an investigation into the incident, including analyzing security cameras. He added that the Lebanese army had quickly deployed in the area and taken the necessary security measures following the shooting.

Conflicting reports have emerged about the incident. A source at Lebanese Internal Security told the local news outlet L’Orient Today that an unknown man armed with a Kalashnikov had opened fire in the direction of the embassy. He also confirmed that a probe had been launched.

The Lebanese news outlet LBCI cited its security sources as saying that the man arrived at the scene on a motorcycle, shot 15 rounds from a Kalashnikov and then rode away. Other local media reported the shots being fired from a black SUV and that a military vehicle belonging to the embassy had been hit.

No group has claimed responsibility for the shooting as of yet, and it remains unclear if it was politically motivated.

Security incidents against the heavily fortified embassy compound have been rare in recent years, unlike during the civil war (1975–1990), when extremist groups launched attacks against US-related entities amid the deteriorating security condition and mounting sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians.

In June 1976 in Beirut, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine kidnapped, shot and killed the US ambassador to Lebanon, Francis E. Meloy Jr., his economic adviser, Robert O. Waring, and the embassy’s driver.

In April 1983, a car bomb detonated near the US embassy, at the time located in West Beirut, killing 63 people, including CIA staff members. The Islamic Jihad Organization, a group with ties to Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack. Following that bombing, the United States relocated the embassy to Awkar, in Christian-majority Metn.

Months later, in October 1983, two truck bombs struck military barracks in Beirut housing US Marines as well as French service members, both deployed as part of the Multinational Force in Lebanon as peacekeepers. The suicide bombing killed 241 American service members, making it one of the deadliest attacks against the Marine Corps. The Islamic Jihad Organization also claimed responsibility for that attack at the time.

In 1989 the United States closed the embassy in Metn and evacuated its staff due to security threats. It reopened in November 1990.

In an incident, in 2008, a car bomb targeted a US embassy vehicle in Beirut, killing three Lebanese and wounding 16 others, including an American and a local embassy employee.

The United States is in the process of building a new embassy on a 43-acre site adjacent to the current compound. Announced in 2015, its construction will reportedly cost more than $1 billion.

“The compound will provide a safe, secure, sustainable, and modern platform that supports US Embassy staff in representing the US Government to Lebanon and in conducting day-to-day diplomacy,” according to the embassy website.

The massive new compound has raised eyebrows in Lebanon, where Iran-backed Hezbollah holds significant sway.

Source : Al-Monitor