First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Mourning in Syria as rebels, regime trade blame for campus attack

 

Universities shut doors across Syria to mark day of mourning called after twin blasts tore through Aleppo campus while students were writing exams.

 

Middle East Online

War spares nobody

DAMASCUS - Universities were closed across Syria on Wednesday to mark a day of mourning called after twin blasts tore through an Aleppo campus while students were writing exams, killing at least 87 people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights warned that the toll from Tuesday's blasts in Syria's war-ravaged northern commercial capital could rise beyond 100, making it one of the bloodiest attacks in Syria's 22-month conflict.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the government and rebels have blamed each other.

Opposition activists said government jets had carried out an air strike on the campus, but a military official said ground-to-air missiles fired by rebels had fallen short.

State television said "terrorists launched two rockets" at the campus.

The university lies in a government-controlled area of the battleground northern city, which has been wracked by violence since last summer when regime forces launched an offensive to halt a rebel advance.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of grassroots activists, said the timing of the attack showed that the blasts were "part of a systematic plan to inflict as many casualties as possible in the university.

The Observatory on Wednesday updated its earlier toll of 82 people dead.

"The number of people killed in twin blasts on Tuesday has risen to 87," it said.

"That number is likely to rise to 100 as body parts continue to be identified," the Britain-based monitoring group said, adding that around 150 people were wounded, some of them critically.

Immediately after the Aleppo University blast, the education minister called for a nationwide "day of mourning" and said President Bashar al-Assad ordered the "immediate rebuilding of damaged parts of the university," state television reported.

Elsewhere in Syria on Wednesday, the army sent reinforcements to the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, as warplanes and rockets bombarded the rebel enclave, said the Observatory, describing the violence there as the worst in several weeks.

"The army's assault is insanely violent. The shelling is continuous, it has been so intense in the past hours. There are many injured people," said Daraya-based activist Abu Kinan.

Clashes raged in the town meanwhile, pitting rebels against advancing troops.

"Every time troops take a new position, the rebels attack them there. That is what makes the clashes so fierce and widespread," said Abu Kinan.

Amateur video posted on the Internet by activists showed a massive tower of smoke rising above the now mostly empty town, which once boasted a population of about 200,000.

Daraya has become one of the rebel Free Syrian Army's main strongholds in Damascus province, after previously being held up as a symbol of peaceful activism against Assad's regime.

Assad's brother and elite Fourth Division chief Maher al-Assad, "has given orders to take control of Daraya even if that should mean destroying whatever buildings remain in the town," according to Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

An army official quoted by pro-regime daily Tishreen downplayed the intensity of operations against Daraya's rebels.

"Military operations have been ongoing for two months in search of gangs," said the official, adding that he had no information on any generalised offensive on Daraya.

More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria's conflict, according to the United Nations, while the Observatory says it has documented more than 48,000 dead.

On Tuesday alone, at least 207 people were killed in violence across Syria, including 137 civilians, said the Observatory.

 

Iran moderate conservative retains parliament speakership

Without clear roadmap, Libya unity government fails to bring change

ISIS offensive triggers mass displacement in northern Syria

Iran blames Saudi Arabia for Hajj impasse

In Iraq town, fans of Real Madrid gather in 'challenge to ISIS'

Iraq Kurdish forces launch offensive east of Mosul

Shipwrecks in Mediterranean claim up to 700 lives in one week

Iran delegation leaves Saudi Arabia without Hajj deal

Hundreds of civilians flee Fallujah area in Iraq

Khamenei urges Iran lawmakers to resist Western 'schemes'

ISIS-rebel clashes grip northeast Syria town

New US law could sanction Hezbollah officials

Thousands of protesters gather in central Bagdad

99 lashes for partying Iranian students

100,000 Syrians trapped after shock IS advance in Aleppo

Iran sticking to nuclear deal: UN watchdog

Turkey party seeks constitutional change to boost president's powers

Turkey accuses US of 'hypocrisy' on Kurdish militia in Syria

Israel environment minister resigns from 'extremist government'

US-led coalition pounds IS near Raqa

Tunisia mulls allowing women to serve in army

US-backed fighters battle IS near Syria stronghold

Tunisia tourism sees 'slight recovery'

UN envoy calls for economic rescue plan for Yemen

Bahrain jails 19 for attacks on police

Up to 30 dead in shipwreck off Libya

UN says Syrians will 'starve' unless aid improves

Christian homes set ablaze in Egyptian village 'love story'

Kuwait's main opposition group ends polls boycott

Twin offensives on IS edge forward in Syria, Iraq

Private firms to help in hunt for Egyptair black boxes

New Israeli defence minister's tough talk to be put to the test

Syria most dangerous place for health workers

Concern for civilians trapped in Iraq's Fallujah

Brent rises past $50 a barrel

Iraq PM urges protesters to stay home

Juncker warns Ankara against migrant deal threats

Israeli air force carries out strikes on Hamas sites in Gaza

Annual Jewish pilgrimage starts in Tunisia

Sudan accuses UN official of 'false' reports on displaced

Egypt quashes prison sentences for 47 protesters

At least 5 drown off Libya coast

Coalition airstrike kills six Yemen civilians 'by mistake'

Erdogan chairs first meeting of new Turkey cabinet

Pope prays to 'convert hearts' of ISIS extremists