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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Suspect Arrested in 1999 Attack on U.S. Embassy




The Federal Security Service, or FSB, arrested a man suspected of having opened fire on the U.S. Embassy in downtown Moscow last year, when tensions flared over NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.


The arrest was made Sunday, but the hunt continues for the suspect's accomplices, an FSB spokesman said. The spokesman would not release the suspect's name, identifying him only as a resident of Moscow.


According to the spokesman, the FSB believes that an entire group of terrorists helped orchestrate the shooting attack against the U.S. Embassy on March 28, 1999.


The attack occurred in broad daylight with dozens of Moscow policemen guarding the embassy's main building against protesters, who had showered the U.S. diplomatic mission with paint and eggs to vent their anger over the bombing of Yugoslavia.


The presence of police did not stop two masked men from driving up to the embassy in an off-road vehicle and trying to fire first one grenade and then - after the grenade launcher proved faulty - making a second attempt with another launcher.


After both grenade launchers failed, one of the two masked men fished out a Kalashnikov assault rifle and sprayed the building with automatic fire.


The assailants escaped in the car despite police efforts to pierce its tires with pistol fire.


It later turned out that the pair had hijacked the car minutes before the attack. After flagging the car down, they kept the driver - a Moscow police colonel - at gunpoint and forced him to drive to the embassy.


Although the driver, Nikolai Lebedev, failed to help the FSB draw useable composite sketches of the two hijackers, the secret service still managed to detain one of them, said the FSB spokesman.


He said FSB detectives found a cache of guns and explosives in the suspect's apartment, as well as a statuette of a masked man holding a grenade launcher.


The suspect testified that the figurine was presented to him by friends to commemorate the March 28, 1999, attack.


The man, who is being kept at a Moscow detention facility, has already admitted his guilt, but has yet to be officially charged with terrorism, the FSB spokesman said.


The spokesman would neither confirm nor deny a report in Kommersant that the suspect served in a special forces unit, but lost his job and was unemployed at the time of last year's attack.


A U.S. Embassy official said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he found the news of the arrest "encouraging," but noted that it was too early to comment in greater detail, as the case has yet to make it to court.


In addition to the March 1999 attack, the U.S. Embassy also drew fire in September 1995 when an unidentified man fired an anti-tank grenade at the embassy before escaping by car. The grenade penetrated the building's wall and exploded inside an empty office. No one was injured in the attack. The assailant has yet to be found.