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1984: US embassy blast kills 20

A suicide bomber has attacked the United States embassy in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The bomber - a member of the extremist group, the Islamic Jihad - drove at high speed up the main drive of the consulate in a truck containing 500 kg (1,102 lb) of high explosive.

Guards opened fire on the vehicle but it exploded right in front of the embassy, killing at least 20 people. Dozens more were injured and the front of the five-storey building was ripped off.

Among the injured was the US ambassador, Reginald Bartholomew, who was buried under rubble and had to be rescued by the visiting UK envoy, David Myers.

The bomber was able to get so far into the compound by using a vehicle similar to others in the US embassy fleet, fitted with diplomatic plates.

The attack follows two other bombings by the Islamic Jihad on American targets in the last 18 months.

The embassy had only been open six weeks after the previous one was blown up in April 1983, killing 61 people.

Painful reminder

The extremist faction was also behind a devastating assault on a US Marine base in Beirut nine months ago, which left 241 people dead.

The Islamic Jihad - who are allied with the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran - said it had attacked the embassy because it did not want a single American to remain on Lebanese soil.

US President Ronald Reagan told reporters the attack was a painful reminder of the menace of terrorism, but said US citizens could not crawl into a hole.

"You have to live and you have to do your best to protect yourself, but you have to know that these terrorist groups are threatening all over the world," he said.

In Context
The United States kept their embassy open after the attack, but Lebanon remained a dangerous place to be for Americans.

Their presence was resented in a country torn apart by civil war and conflict with Israel.

During the 1980s almost 270 US citizens were killed in bombings, assassinations and kidnappings and five were abducted but later released.

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