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Tear gas fired on Vatican office in Venezuela

  • Story Highlights
  • Incident occurred hours after group condemns attack synagogue
  • Vatican office in Caracas, Venezuela, previously came under attack
  • Synagogue had canceled services because it feared backlash
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CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Three tear gas canisters were fired Wednesday at the Vatican's diplomatic headquarters in Venezuela, the second such attack in less than three weeks, church officials and local media reports said.

No one was reported injured, and damage was minimal.

The incident occurred just hours after the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, which includes Catholics, issued a proclamation condemning a recent attack on the main synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela.

In that incident, about 15 armed men forced their way into the Mariperez Synagogue about 10 p.m. Friday and defaced the administrative offices with anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalized an interior room where the Torah is kept. Graffiti left at the scene included the phrases, "Damn the Jews," "Jews out of here" and "Israel assassins." The men also left behind a picture of a devil, authorities said.

The synagogue had canceled services in recent weeks because of a feared backlash from the now-concluded Israeli military operations in Gaza, which led to the expulsions of the Israeli and Venezuelan ambassadors to each country.

The Vatican office in Caracas previously came under attack January 19, when six tear gas canisters were fired. Three of them landed deep inside the building, but no one was seriously injured.

Two other tear gas attacks were reported that day, one at the home of a private TV station director critical of the government and another at the University of Central Venezuela. That attack came as a student leader whose car had been torched two days earlier held a news conference to denounce violence.

The student leader, Ricardo Sanchez, leads a movement opposed to a constitutional amendment on the ballot this month that would allow leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to run for a third consecutive six-year term in 2012. The National Assembly approved the referendum last month. Venezuelans narrowly rejected a similar measure in a December 2007 referendum.

Chavez called for the referendum in late November, one week after candidates he supported won a majority of the seats in local elections that were seen as a test of his influence.

Meanwhile, no one claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack at the Vatican office, unlike the other two attacks.

This was the seventh attack on the the nunciature. CNN affiliate Globovision TV said after the previous attack that it was the sixth.

Globovision aired video Wednesday that showed spent canisters on the sidewalk outside the Vatican office.

In January, a group calling itself Colectiva la Piedrita, which is said to support Chavez's socialist agenda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Vatican office. Pamphlets left outside the building accused the Catholic Church of treason against the Venezuelan people.

The Vatican Nunciature in Caracas has been giving asylum since June to Nixon Moreno, a Venezuelan student leader accused of attempting to rape a policewoman and wounding several police officers in a 2006 shootout. Venezuela has not granted Moreno safe passage to leave the country, and he remains holed up in the Nunciature.

Colectiva la Piedrita also previously claimed responsibility for similar attacks against Globovision, the homes of two journalists, the newspaper El Nuevo Pais and the headquarters for the Christian socialist party COPEI, Globovision said on its Web site.

CNN's Maria Carolina Gonzalez contributed to this report

All About VenezuelaCaracasHugo Chavez

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