Middle East

Pupils killed in Damascus University attack

At least 15 killed in mortar strike in Syrian capital as UN investigates forced deportations of refugees from Turkey.

Last Modified: 28 Mar 2013 14:21
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Rebels say they attacked government checkpoints in a southern town that is a gateway to Damascus [Reuters]

At least 15 students have been killed and 20 others injured when mortar bombs landed on the canteen of Damascus University's College of Architecture, state-run media and opposition activists said.

Al-Ikhbariya television on Thursday showed images of doctors pumping the chests of at least two young men and blood splattered on the floor of what appeared to be an outdoor canteen in the campus, located in the central Baramkeh district.

"Terrorists fire mortar rounds on the faculty of architecture in Damascus, and according to initial reports several people have been killed or wounded," the broadcaster said, using the regime term for rebels fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, in the country's south, activists said Syrian rebels have been attacking army checkpoints in and around a key town that is a gateway to Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebel attacks are under way in Dael and surrounding areas.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activists group, says regime bombardment of Dael killed at least three people on Thursday. Dael lies in the strategic Daraa province, which borders Jordan.

Unrest in Turkey camp

The latest reports of violence come as the UN refugee agency sounded the alarm over reports that Turkey deported Syrians after clashes in a camp where they had sought refuge, but Ankara rejected claims that they were forced back into the war-ravaged country.

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Turkish foreign ministry said that about 50 to 60 people had returned to Syria voluntarily.

"Turkey has no policy of deporting Syrians. It would be against our general policy of accommodating Syrians," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Levent Gumrukcu told AFP.

Gumrukcu said that Syrians who want to go back to their homeland of their own free will can do so. He said that after the violence 60 Syrians - including those who were involved in the clashes - voluntarily returned to Syria overnight.

A second Turkish official, who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity, said that some 200 refugees who clashed with the police were provocateurs whose action was not backed by the other Syrian refugees.

If they had stayed in the camp, they faced a choice between being hauled before a court or being lynched by fellow refugees for sparking the violence, the official claimed.

As a result, some 130 of them preferred to return to Syria, the official said.

The clashes broke out on Wednesday when angry refugees pelted police with stones, and security forces fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters.

The protests were sparked by the death of a child in a fire in the camp, which houses around 25,000 Syrians who fled the conflict in their country.

Accidental fires often break out in the camps, and several refugees - mostly children - have died.

Turkey is housing some 200,000 refugees in camps situated along the Syrian border, while another 70,000 displaced are living in houses rented in several Turkish towns.

The UN says Syria's two-year civil war has killed more than 70,000 people.


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