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Syria: Gulf-backed activists stormed Cairo embassy

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Jan. 28, 2012, 8:14 p.m. | World — by Associated Press

Egyptian policemen stand guard outside the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. Around 200 opposition Syrians protested outside the Syrian Embassy, trying to break into the building. They threw stones and bricks at the building, but were kept back by a line of police and soldiers.
© AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen

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Syria's ambassador to Egypt has accused a leading opposition group backed by oil-rich Gulf Arab nations of storming the country's embassy in Cairo late Friday. The group denies both that it was involved in the incident and that it receives funds from the Gulf. Damascus' envoy to Cairo, Youssef Ahmed, said in a statement that unspecified Gulf nations were funding activists from the opposition Syrian National Council, whom he accused of breaking down the gates of the embassy and stealing documents from inside the building.

"The group that attacked the embassy Friday night were saboteurs that belong to the Syrian National Council, which receives funding from Gulf states known to be targeting Syria," he said.

A member of the Syrian National Council, Walid el-Bonni, said Ahmed's allegations were "completely untrue."

"These were simply people who are angry with what is happening in Syria, especially the last two days of killings of women and children," he said. "This was carried out by a group of people not related to the Syrian National Council."

The past two days of violence have left at least 74 people dead, including small children, according to Syrian activists.

El-Bonni dismissed the accusations that his group has received funds from Arab Gulf nation, calling them "nonsense." He said the Syrian National Council is in fact calling on Arab nations to fund the group, but has so far not received any financial assistance.

Gulf nations have been among the strongest critics of the Syrian regime's crackdown, which the U.N. says has killed at least 5,400 people since the uprising began last March.

Around 200 activists protested outside the Syrian Embassy on Friday and then stormed it, reportedly tearing down the Syrian flag and pulling President Bashar Assad's picture down before stomping on it.

The Syrian ambassador said Egyptian authorities "failed to protect" the embassy, and demanded compensation for damages. The ambassador's statement said a Syrian delegation had previously been attacked in the streets of Cairo, but did not provide other details.

Several Gulf nations have already withdrawn their ambassadors from Syria in protest at the crackdown on protesters. Last year, pro-regime demonstrators broke into the Saudi and Qatari embassies in Syria.

The deputy of a group called The Coordinators of the Syrian Revolution in Egypt, Momen Koafatiya, said the attack was not planned, but was a result of overzealous, youthful protesters.

"The situation would not have reached this point if Egypt had kicked out Syria's ambassador and recalled its own in Damascus as other Arab League nations have done," he said.

Cairo is home to a large community of Syrian opposition figures, who have set up a tent in Tahrir square, the epicenter of Egypt's own protest movement.
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