Syrian forces raid Aleppo University; four killed
BEIRUT SYRIAN security forces stormed dormitories at Aleppo University to break up anti-government protests, killing at least four students and wounding several others in an hours-long rampage that ended on Thursday morning and left part of the campus in flames, activists and opposition groups said.
They said the main university in Syria’s largest city shut down in the wake of the violence, but it was not clear for how long.
Around 1,500 students had been protesting in student quarters next to the main campus late Wednesday when security forces and proregime gunmen swept into their residences, firing tear gas at first, then live ammunition to disperse them.
The raid followed an attack on the protesters by proregime students armed with knives, activists said.
Student activist Thaer al Ahmed said panic and chaos ensued as students tried to flee.
“Some students ran to their rooms to take cover but they were followed to their rooms, beaten up and arrested,” he said. “Others suffered cuts and broken bones as they tried to flee.” Raids and intermittent gunfire continued for about five hours through early on Thursday, he said, adding that dozens of people were wounded, some critically, and around 50 students were arrested at the state-run university.
Aleppo, a major economic hub, has a population that has remained largely loyal to President Bashar al Assad and has been largely spared from the violence that has plagued other Syrian cities.
But university students – many from rebellious areas such as the northern Idlib province – have been staging almost daily protests calling for the fall of Assad’s regime.
Thaer, a law student, said the campus and dormitories have been raided before, but Thursday’s raid was the most violent.
The student quarters – known as the University City – comprise 20 dormitories that house more than 5,000 students next to the university campus. Students there often shouted out anti-Assad slogans from their rooms at night, Thaer said.
An amateur videos showed a large number of security forces apparently storming the dorms Wednesday night.
Another showed a students protest earlier on Wednesday, during which protesters shouted: “We don’t want you, Bashar!” A video posted on Thursday showed the university campus with its windows shattered and a man dousing a smoldering fire with a bucket of water.
The authenticity of the videos could not be confirmed.
The university was founded in 1958. The school’s website has a picture of Assad with the words: “I Believe in Syria.” The Local Coordination Committees activist group said five students were killed and some 200 arrested in the raids, while the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at four.