Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Woman Sets U.S. Embassy Guard on Fire

An unidentified woman Thursday doused an American guard at the U.S. Embassy with gasoline and set him on fire, but the guard escaped unharmed.


According to U.S. Embassy deputy press spokeswoman Olivia Hilton, at approximately 10:45 a.m. inside the main entrance to the consular section, the woman poured gasoline from a plastic bag onto the guard, then ignited it.


The blaze was extinguished quickly, and "no one was hurt" in the incident, said Hilton.


According to embassy press spokesman Richard Hoagland, the guard was not taken to the hospital. The Russian fire department was called and arrived quickly, but the blaze had been extinguished by the embassy sprinkler system. The conflagration burned "a relatively short time," Hoagland said.


Though neither Hoagland nor Hilton would identify the guard involved, other guards at the embassy indicated that the victim was Jeremy Holt. Holt, reached at home late Thursday afternoon, referred all questions to the embassy press office.


Hilton would not say whether Holt was involved, saying the man involved was "a locally hired American guard."


Hoagland could not say whether the woman had been apprehended. "To the best of my knowledge, based on mid-day information, she disappeared." But Hilton said, "The Russian authorities are cooperating with us fully on this incident."


The embassy's regional security office would not comment on the incident, referring calls to the press office.


It was not clear what the motive for the attack may have been, but one Russian guard working in the non-immigrant visa section offered a possible theory: "Some are guessing that [she did it] because of a visa refusal."


At 2:30 p.m., a fire-damaged table leaned on one leg outside the main entrance on Novinsky Bulvar, while personnel in the entryway continued to clean the area.


Daniel Rogers, 32, an engineer standing outside the embassy in the afternoon hoping to get his wife's passport from the now-closed consular section, said he had been in the non-immigrant visa waiting room when the incident occurred.


"I was in the process of waiting for [my wife's] name to be called when all of this happened today. ... When I came out, there was water everywhere, and the roof was down. It did not look very serious to me. I do construction for a living, though."


Most Russians and Americans who came to the embassy to pick up passports were met by closed doors and Russian guards instructing them to return Friday. Some petitioners who convinced the guards that they had "emergency" situations were allowed access to the consular section through a side door into the north wing, around the corner from the main entrance.


A Russian security guard who identified himself only as Andrei and who has worked outside the embassy entrances since 1980 said he did not remember hearing of a similar incident at the U.S. Embassy in his 16 years of service.