Mob attacks US mission in Damascus

An angry mob of people on Monday attacked the US embassy in the Syrian capital after a weekend of rising tensions between Washington and Damascus, an embassy source told AFP.

"Today there was an attack by a mob on the US embassy," he said, adding that the building sustained some physical damage and that the crowd then moved on to the ambassador's residence.

The attack comes four days after US Ambassador Robert Ford visited the central city of Hama, a flashpoint for demonstrations against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sparking outrage in Damascus.

The embassy source said "no staff were injured" and were never in "imminent danger," although the "Syrian government was slow to respond with extra security measures that were needed."

"The Syrian government has assured us that it will provide the protection required under the Vienna Convention and we expect it to do so."

He added that a television channel heavily influenced by the authorities had "encouraged this violent demonstration," which followed protests at the embassy on Friday and Saturday calling for the ambassador's resignation.

A senior US official on Sunday accused Damascus of orchestrating the protests over Ford's trip to Hama, which the Syrian authorities had slammed as a "flagrant interference" in the Arab country's "domestic affairs."

Ford and his French counterpart Eric Chevallier visited Hama on Thursday amid fears of a bloody crackdown after Friday prayers the next day by Assad's forces, with tanks encircling the city.

Tensions have been escalating for months between Damascus and Washington over the Syrian government's fierce response to opposition protests seeking to oust Assad.

Security forces killed at least 15 people across the country on Friday and arrested more than 200, activists said, although no deaths were reported in Hama itself.

Human rights groups say that since the anti-regime protests first broke out in mid-March, the security forces have killed more than 1,300 civilians and arrested at least 12,000.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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