29 Mar 2013

Students die in mortar fire in Damascus

8:08 pm on 29 March 2013

Mortar fire has killed at least 15 students in a cafetaria at Damascus University, with state media blaming "terrorists", its term for Syrian rebels, who are increasingly targeting President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power.

The attack came as battles between insurgents and loyalist troops raged in several districts on the edges of the city, and as warplanes targeted rebel enclaves in Irbin and other towns east of Damascus.

"A total of 15 students were killed in a mortar attack launched by terrorists targeting the architecture faculty," university dean Amer Mardini was quoted by the official SANA news agency as saying.

The agency said six others were wounded by "mortars that targeted the faculty cafeteria".

The attack comes as rebels fighting to oust Assad's regime have escalated mortar attacks on central Damascus, including Umayyad Square in the middle of the capital, which houses state television's headquarters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group that relies on sources on the ground for its information, also reported Thursday's attack, although it put the toll at 13 people dead.

Director Rami Abdel Rahman said the recent escalation of mortar attacks on Damascus has instilled terror in the capital.

"Because of the regular mortar attacks on Baramkeh and other areas in Damascus, residents no longer feel safe to walk in the streets or to go about their daily lives," he told AFP.

Meanwhile, battles raged in several areas on the edges of Damascus, the Observatory said.