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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

U.S. embassy in Syria warns of sex attacks

WASHINGTON The United States has alerted American women to be on guard against sexual offenses in Syria.

The U.S. embassy in Damascus has reported a spate of sexual attacks on foreigners in Damascus. In a June 6 warden message, the embassy said the attacks targeted foreign women, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Two incidents in the past week involved women walking alone, either in the early morning or early evening," the embassy said. "Another incident occurred several months ago when two women were walking together in one of the tunnels crossing underneath the Autostrad near Damascus University."

The warden message cited other reports of female U.S. embassy employees being sexually harassed by Syrian taxi drivers. The embassy reported two cases of female staffers being fondled during taxi rides.

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"Though none of these cases went beyond the stage of grabbing or groping, they were understandably upsetting for the victims," the embassy said.

The embassy stressed that Damascus, with a population of seven million, maintains a low crime rate. The warden message urged Americans not to walk alone and avoid deserted areas.

"Don't assume because you are close to home that this type of incident cannot happen," the message said. "In both recent cases, the victims were close to home, although alone at the time."

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