Syrian security forces have stormed student dorms at a university in the northwest of the country in an attempt to break up anti-government protests, reportedly killing at least four students and wounding several more.
Around 1,500 students were protesting in student quarters next to Aleppo University's main campus late Wednesday when security forces and pro-regime gunmen moved into their residences, firing tear gas at first, then live ammunition to disperse them.
In the lead-up to the attack, students at the university had been staging almost daily protests calling for the fall of President Bashar Assad's regime.
Student activist Thaer al-Ahmed told news agency AP that panic and chaos ensued as students tried to flee their attackers. He said the campus and dormitories had been raided before, but Thursday's raid was the most violent.
"Some students ran to their rooms to take cover but they were followed to their rooms, beaten up and arrested," Ahmed said. "Others suffered cuts and broken bones as they tried to flee."
Death count uncertain
Raids and intermittent gunfire continued for about five hours early Thursday, he said, adding that dozens of people were wounded and around 50 students arrested.
The Local Coordination Committees activist group said five students were killed in the raids and 200 arrests made. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at four. The Syrian government has prevented independent reporting in the country, making it impossible to independently verify casualty figures.
The attacks came as security forces in Damascus province carried out early morning raids in the town of Douma and near Harasta, the British-based organization said.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city and economic hub, has a population that has remained mainly loyal to Assad. Until now it has been largely spared from the violence that has hit other Syrian cities.
Violence across Syria killed at least 30 people on Wednesday, despite the ceasefire that came into effect on April 12 and the recent arrival of UN observers.
The UN says that 9,000 people have died in conflict between Assad supporters and protesters since March 2011.
al/ncy (AFP, AP, Reuters)