Syrian officials claim 15 killed in Damascus University attack
Damascus: Mortar shells slammed into a cafeteria at Damascus University on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 20 in what was the deadliest in a string of such attacks on President Bashar Assad`s seat of power, state media and officials said.
Rebels began firing shells at the capital earlier this year, and the strikes have become increasingly common in recent weeks as rebels clash with government troops on the east and south sides of the city.
State-run TV said 15 people were killed when mortar shells struck the cafeteria of the university`s architecture department in the central Baramkeh district. A Syrian official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to give official statements said 20 people were wounded in the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came two days after rebels barraged Damascus with mortar shells that killed at least three people and wounded dozens.
The shelling rarely causes many casualties, but it has shattered the aura of normalcy the regime has tried to cultivate in Damascus. In recent days, rebels have struck deeper than ever into the heart of the city in a new tactic to try and loosen Assad`s grip on his main stronghold.
The government blamed "terrorists," the term it uses for rebels fighting to oust Assad, and called the attack as a "barbaric massacre."
Government-run Al-Ikhbariya TV showed footage of plastic tables and chairs turned upside down, shattered glass and pens and books scattered on the floor. Pools of blood were seen on the floor of the open-air cafeteria. The station showed paramedics trying to revive a wounded girl.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack, saying many of the wounded were in critical condition.
Syria`s crisis began in March 2011 with protests demanding Assad`s ouster. Following a harsh government crackdown, the uprising steadily grew more violent until it became a full-fledged civil war. The UN says Syria`s two-year civil war has killed more than 70,000 people.
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