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U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Injured in Attack

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Injured in Attack

The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was wounded in an attack by an armed assailant on Thursday morning, local time, March 5.

Lippert, the former chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, was giving a speech in the Korean capital, Seoul, when the incident occurred, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told CNN that there is no known motive at this point, but that the injuries sustained “are not life-threatening.” Lippert was reportedly struck by an assailant described as a middle-aged man who wielded a razor blade. In a statement, Harf said the department strongly condemns “this act of violence” and said the U.S. Embassy in Seoul is coordinating with local law enforcement authorities. Doctors who treated Lippert say he needed 80 stitches and may not have full functionality in his hand for six months to a year.

The attacker, a militant Korean nationalist, reportedly shouted for the unification of North and South Korea before being apprehended by authorities.

An image on Yonhap’s website shows Lippert walking on his own, but bleeding heavily and holding his cheek.

The ambassador is a close confidant of President Barack Obama and earlier worked as his foreign-policy advisor in the Senate before advising the Illinois Democrat’s presidential campaign. Lippert is a veteran of the U.S wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including a stint he did as an intelligence officer in Iraq with Navy SEALs. He spent the first year of the Obama administration as a senior staffer in the White House National Security Council, then stepped down in late 2009 to return to active duty in the Navy. He then served two years, including time in Afghanistan, as a naval special forces intelligence officer. He returned to Washington as the Pentagon’s top Asia policy advisor in 2012, later becoming the U.S. ambassador to Korea in 2014.

From 2000 to 2005, Lippert advised Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on foreign aid and security issues. On Wednesday night, Leahy issued a statement saying he was “heartsick about news reports about the senseless attack on Mark…. He is as devoted a public servant as they come, a great credit to both of our countries,” he said.

South Korea issued a statement expressing condolences to Lippert and vowed to take steps to increase diplomatic security in the country.

Photo credit: Wikimedia