DAMASCUS,(Reuters) – Four gunmen and one guard were killed when Syrian security forces stopped a “terrorist” attack on Friday that targeted a building behind the premises of the state-run television, the official SANA news agency reported.
Two militants and two members of the security forces were wounded during the attack, SANA said. Authorities arrested four other militants.
Fayez al-Sayegh, head of Syrian radio and television, told Reuters a police patrol had spotted the gunmen and engaged them in the heavily guarded Ummayad Square area in central Damascus.
“This is a major area in Damascus, full of security installations, hotels and other state buildings,” he said. “The security force dealt effectively with the group as shown from the number of casualties among its members.”
Traffic was normal near the television compound, a Reuters witness said. There was no sign of increased security.
Syrian forces clashed with Islamists militants several times last year, usually in raids to arrest them.
Authorities said in December they had found a bomb factory in the northern city of Aleppo belonging to a militant group that, they said, was monitoring government officials and state facilities.
Political analyst Thabet Salem said the gunmen involved in Friday’s shootout were “likely to be members of an Islamist militant organisation similar to the ones authorities have been facing lately.”
Syria says the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq gave rise to militants in the region.
The United States has been pressuring Damascus to seal its eastern border to stop militants from crossing into Iraq to fight U.S. forces there. Syria says it is doing its best but calls on Washington and Baghdad to do more too.
In the early 1980s, Syria crushed a fundamentalist revolt led by the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to the killing and imprisonment of thousands.