Middle East

Syria conflict: Shells hit Russian embassy compound

Crowd outside Russian embassy just before missiles strike. 13 Oct 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A crowd was waving Russian flags outside the embassy just before the shells struck

Two shells have struck the Russian embassy compound in the Syrian capital Damascus as hundreds of pro-government supporters rallied outside in support of Russian air strikes.

No-one was killed but a BBC Arabic correspondent in Damascus says some people were injured.

The explosions triggered widespread panic and smoke was seen coming from the embassy compound.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described it as "a terrorist attack".

"This is... most likely intended to intimidate supporters of the fight against terror and prevent them from prevailing in the struggle against extremists," he said.

"Together with the Syrian authorities, we are now trying to establish those responsible."

Moments before, demonstrators had been waving Russian flags and holding up photographs of Russian President Vladimir Putin, witnesses said.

High-stakes gamble Risks of air forces from Russia, Syria and Nato operating in close proximity

Why? What? How? Five things you need to know about Russia's involvement

What can Russia's air force do? The US-led coalition has failed to destroy IS. Can Russia do any better?

The close ties behind Russia's intervention

Rebel forces based in the suburbs of Damascus have previously targeted the embassy. Last month, Russia demanded "concrete action" after a missile struck the embassy compound.

One person was killed in May when mortar rounds landed near the embassy, and three people were hurt in April when mortars exploded inside the compound.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Russian defence ministry released footage show jets carrying out attacks

Russia's Muslims divided over strikes

Syria's civil war explained

Russia began its campaign of air strikes in Syria late last month.

The Kremlin says it is attacking the Islamic State (IS) group and other jihadists, but the US says other rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad - an ally of Russia - have been targeted.

A US military spokesman said American and Russian jets came within kilometres of each other over Syria on Saturday, at around the same time both countries' officials held talks over how to avoid conflict.

Threats to Russia

In a 40-minute message released on Monday, Abu-Muhammad al-Adnani, an IS spokesman, confirmed the death of the group's second-in-command, Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayal. The US had declared him dead in August after an air strike in Iraq

Adnani also called on Muslims to join a jihad against the US and Russia. It is the first time the group has made threats against Russia.

On Monday, the head of the al-Nusra Front - a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria - described Russia's intervention as "a new crusade".

Abu Mohammad al-Golani called on rebel groups to unite in the wake of the air strikes and also urged Muslims in the Russian Caucasus to attack civilians there.

In another development on Tuesday, a report by Amnesty International accused Kurdish forces in northern Syria of carrying out a wave of forced displacements and mass house demolitions that amounted to war crimes.

It said the Popular Protection Units (YPG) had razed entire villages after capturing them from IS.

The YPG has consistently denied accusations of forced displacements.