BEIRUT — A man with a Kalashnikov fired more than a dozen bullets at the US embassy in Beirut on Wednesday night, a source at the Internal Security Forces (ISF) told L'Orient Today. The diplomatic mission reported no casualties.
"At 10:37 p.m. local time, small arms fire was reported in the vicinity of the entrance to the US Embassy. There were no injuries and our facility is safe. We are in close contact with host country law enforcement authorities," confirmed US embassy spokesperson Jake Nelson.
ISF also told L'Orient Today that they are investigating the incident.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib reached out to American Ambassador Dorothy Shea to denounce "the assault on the American embassy."
Bou Habib stressed "the imperative of holding the wrongdoers accountable for their actions and subjecting them to the most severe sanctions," in comments reported by the National News Agency.
He added that "Lebanon remains committed to ensuring the requisite protection for foreign diplomatic establishments, in line with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati also called the leaders of security forces — including General Security, the Internal Security Forces and the army —to gather information about the incident, the state-run National News Agency reported. Mikati allegedly requested a strict approach to the investigation.
"The protection of diplomatic missions in Lebanon is a matter that is absolutely not to be taken lightly, and it is not permissible for anyone to resort to old methods of conveying political messages, which the Lebanese people have suffered from greatly," Mikati stated.
He said security agencies "are fully mobilized to uncover the circumstances of this condemned incident and to apprehend those responsible."
Lebanon's American Embassy is located in Awkar, in the Matn district, and is a highly secure area. Lebanese security forces have cordoned off the area, a security official told AFP.
The official said the unknown assailant fired 15 bullets at the embassy entrance and left behind a bag full of ammunition.
The bag was seized by authorities, a judicial official told AFP.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the press.
A military court has begun investigating the incident, the judicial official said, calling it "a serious crime targeting the embassy of a major country."
Authorities were reviewing surveillance camera footage, according to the security official.
The official said the attack was meant "to send a specific message" without elaborating.
The shooting coincided with the anniversary of a deadly 1984 car bombing outside the US embassy annex in Beirut, which the United States blamed on the Iran-backed Hezbollah.
US diplomatic and military missions in Lebanon were attacked on a number of occasions during the 1975-1990 civil war when Islamic fundamentalists also kidnapped several US hostages.
The embassy relocated to Awkar after it was struck by a suicide attack in April 1983 that killed 63 people.