Two explosions tore through one of Syria‘s biggest universities on the first day of student exams on Tuesday, killing at least 82 people and wounding 162, Syria’s UN envoy told the UN security council.
“A cowardly terrorist act targeted the students of Aleppo university as they sat for their midterm examinations,” Bashar Ja’afari told the council during a debate on counter-terrorism.
Bloodshed has disrupted civilian life across Syria since a violent government crackdown in early 2011 on peaceful demonstrations for democratic reform turned the unrest into an armed insurgency bent on overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 50 countries asked the UN security council on Tuesday to refer the crisis to the international criminal court, which prosecutes people for genocide and war crimes. But Russia – Assad’s long-standing ally and arms supplier – blocked the initiative, calling it “ill-timed and counterproductive”.
Each side in the 22-month-old conflict blamed the other for the blasts at the University of Aleppo, located in a government-held area of Syria’s most populous city.
Some activists in Aleppo said a government attack caused the explosions, while state television accused “terrorists” – a term they often use to describe the rebels – of firing two rockets at the school. A rebel fighter said the blasts appeared to have been caused by “ground-to-ground” missiles.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said it could not identify the source of the blasts.
“Dozens are in critical condition. The death toll could rise to 90,” the Observatory said in a statement, citing doctors and students.
State television showed a body lying on the street and several cars burning. One of the university buildings was damaged.
Video footage showed students carrying books out of the university after one of the explosions, walking quickly away from rising smoke.
The camera then shook to the sound of another explosion and people began running.
If confirmed, the government’s report of a rocket attack would suggest rebels in the area had been able to obtain and deploy more powerful weapons than previously used.
The nearest rebel-controlled area, Bustan al-Qasr, is more than a mile away from the university.
Activists have rejected the suggestion that insurgents were behind the attack, however, and instead blamed the government.
“The warplanes of this criminal regime do not respect a mosque, a church or a university,” said a student who gave his name as Abu Tayem.
Aleppo university blasts kill at least 82 – The Guardian
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