The bold attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has thrown new light on what President Bashar Assad calls a growing Islamic threat in Syria. But some critics say the regime exaggerates the problem for its own political gain.
With many questions still up in the air over the assault, the only attacker captured in the gunbattle died from his wounds before police could question him, officials said Wednesday, leaving the investigation's future unclear.
The three other gunmen involved in the attack were killed in the brazen, midmorning attempt to storm the embassy compound on Tuesday. The three gunmen pulled up in a car, opening fire with automatic weapons and hand grenades, while the fourth pulled up with an explosives-packed truck.
Syrian guards fended them off in a fierce gunbattle, in which one guard was killed, and the attackers failed to breach the embassy wall.
The fourth attacker fled the truck without detonating it, was wounded and was captured, reports AP.
His condition was too critical for officials to interrogate him and he later died in the hospital, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said Wednesday. It said all the attackers were Syrian citizens.
Only few years ago, such attacks were almost unthinkable in Syria, whose secular regime led a crackdown on Muslim fundamentalists in 1982 that killed thousands in the city of Hama. For that reason, Sunni Muslim extremist groups such as al-Qaida fiercely despise Assad's government.
Syrian officials often say they long ago recognized the danger of Muslim radicals and dealt with them a reference to the Hama crackdown.