Gunman fires shots at US embassy in Lebanon, military says

BEIRUT (Reuters) -A gunman fired shots at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon on Wednesday and was wounded in a firefight with troops, the Lebanese army said.

The army said the attacker, a Syrian national, was detained and taken to hospital for treatment and that soldiers searched the area for other gunmen.

The US Embassy said firearms were reported at the entrance this morning. The facility and staff were safe, it added. According to diplomatic sources, US Ambassador Lisa Johnson is currently traveling outside Lebanon.

A Lebanese security source told Reuters that Lebanese troops wounded the gunman in the stomach.

The security source also said a member of the embassy’s security team was slightly injured. An embassy spokesman did not respond to a Reuters question about possible injuries among embassy guards.

Reuters verified photos of the suspected attacker circulating online and posted them near the embassy. Reuters verified some of the Arabic writing on his vest, which read “Islamic.” There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

A Reuters cameraman saw Lebanese security forces setting up checkpoints around the embassy, ​​while a US-made helicopter was made available to the Lebanese army circling above.

Lebanon’s interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati said he was following up on the incident with the defense minister and security forces.

The US Embassy is located north of Beirut in a high-security zone with several checkpoints along the route to the entrance. It moved there from Beirut after a 1983 suicide bombing that killed more than 60 people.

In September, shots were fired near the embassy, ​​without any injuries.

In mid-October, in the early days of the Gaza war, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the embassy to demonstrate. Lebanese security forces used tear gas and water cannon to repel them.

Lebanon has been the scene of conflict between the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel since October, parallel to the Gaza war. Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border have been uprooted for fear the war will deepen.

The United States has made diplomatic efforts to reduce violence along the border.

In a separate incident, a member of Lebanon’s internal security forces assigned to provide security at the Saudi embassy in Lebanon committed suicide outside the embassy on Wednesday, a security and diplomatic source said.

The security source said the embassy guard died after shooting himself in the head. The diplomatic source said he was suffering from mental health problems.

(Reporting by Jana Choukeir in Dubai and Maya Gebeily in Beirut; additional reporting by Ahmed Elimam and Deniz; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Philippa Fletcher and Angus MacSwan)