Rockets hit Russian embassy in Damascus during rally

About 300 people had gathered near the Russian embassy in Damascus when the two rockets hit.
About 300 people had gathered near the Russian embassy in Damascus when the two rockets hit. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Moscow denounces 'act of terror'; demonstrators were supporting Russia's air war in Syria

DAMASCUS • Two rockets struck the Russian embassy compound in Damascus yesterday as hundreds of people gathered nearby to express their support for Moscow's air war in Syria, a day after Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate called for tit-for-tat attacks on Russia.

Some 300 people had begun to gather for a demonstration backing Russia's recent intervention in Syria when the rockets crashed into the embassy compound in the Mazraa neighbourhood of the capital.

There was widespread panic among the demonstrators, who moments earlier had been waving Russian flags and holding up large photographs of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Quoted by Russian news agency Interfax, senior embassy official Eldar Kurbanov said: "Two rockets hit embassy territory at 10.15 am. No one was killed or wounded."

But some protesters were reportedly hurt in the attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the rockets were fired from the eastern edges of the capital, where Islamist rebels are entrenched.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow considered the shelling of its embassy as a terrorist act, the RIA news agency reported.

"This is an obvious act of terrorism, probably aimed at intimidating supporters of the fight against terrorism," Mr Lavrov was quoted as saying, ahead of talks with the United Nations' special envoy for Syria, Mr Staffan de Mistura, yesterday.

He also said Russia was supporting Mr De Mistura's efforts to ensure a political settlement to the Syria crisis and was disappointed by US reluctance to coordinate the efforts of all sides involved in fighting terrorism in Syria.

The Russian embassy has been the target of rocket attacks before. On Sept 21, just nine days before it began its air war in Syria targeting terrorists, Moscow demanded "concrete action" after a shell hit the embassy's compound in Damascus.

Late on Monday, Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, head of Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, urged hardliners in the Caucasus to target Russians because of Moscow's air campaign. He pledged that Moscow's air war would have dire consequences.

Russia has said its raids are targeting Al-Nusra's rival Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other "terrorist" groups.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

US-RUSSIAN EFFORT

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Rockets hit Russian embassy in Damascus during rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe