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Syria Puts US Embassy Under Guard as Tens of Thousands Join Protest

Troops carrying batons and shields are stationed in Damascus as crowds decry American 'terrorist' raid on border

Haroon Siddique and agencies

Tens of Iraqi refugees in Syria protest against a US raid on a Syrian village at Sukkeriyah, 8 km from the Iraqi border, that killed eight people, in downtown Damascus on Wednesday Oct. 29, 2008. The protestors chanted anti-US slogans and carried Iraqi flags. Syria's deputy foreign minister said Wednesday that Damascus wants America and Iraq to apologize to Syria for a U.S. commando raid mounted from Iraq that killed eight and pledge not to repeat it again. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)


Hundreds of Syrian riot police
surrounded the US embassy in Damascus today as tens of thousands of
protesters gathered nearby to denounce a US raid that killed eight
people near the Iraqi border.

The crowds converged on Youssef
al-Azmi square, about a mile from the embassy - which was closed for
the day because of security concerns.

Troops wearing helmets
and carrying batons and shields took up positions around the embassy
and the adjacent US residence building. Two fire engines were parked

There were no signs of violence as protesters formed circles and danced traditional dances

the sponsor of destruction and wars," read one banner, as protesters
waved national flags and pictures of the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.

"We will not submit to terrorism," read another banner.

Baayoun, a 20-year-old university student, said the US raid was a
"criminal act". "We want the Americans to stop their acts of terrorism
in Syria, in Iraq and the rest of the world," he said.


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The Syrian
government has demanded a US apology for the attack in the eastern
border community, which it says left eight civilians dead. It has
threatened to cut off cooperation on Iraqi border security if there are
more raids on its territory.

Syrian security around the embassy
is usually tight and Americans in the country are generally made to
feel welcome but when the US invaded Iraq protesters attacked the

The American school has been shut for the day. The
Syrian government has ordered the school to shut down - this is
expected within a week - and the immediate closing of the American
cultural centre linked to the embassy.

In Washington, a state
department deputy spokesman, Robert Wood, said yesterday that the White
House was considering how to respond to the order to shut the cultural
centre and American school. He stressed that the US expected the Syrian
government to "provide adequate security for the buildings". The US
embassy warned its citizens in Syria to be vigilant.

There has
been no formal acknowledgment of the raid from Washington, but US
officials speaking on condition of anonymity have said it killed Badran
Turki al-Mazidih, a top al-Qaida figure who operated a network
smuggling fighters into Iraq. An Iraqi national, he also uses the name
Abu Ghadiyah.

Washington lists Syria as a state sponsor of
terrorism and has operated sanctions since 2004. In recent months
Damascus has been trying to end years of global isolation. Assad is
seen as less hardline than his father, the previous president.

accusations that Syria is not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters
from crossing its borders into Iraq remain a sore point in relations.
Syria says it is doing all it can to safeguard its long, porous border.

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