- Associated Press - Thursday, May 3, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces stormed dorms at a northwestern university to break up anti-government protests there, killing at least four students and wounding several others with tear gas and live ammunition, activists and opposition groups said Thursday.

About 1,500 students were protesting in student quarters next to Aleppo University’s main campus late Wednesday when security forces and pro-regime 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 pro-regime 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 Thursday, he said, adding that dozens of people were wounded, some critically, and about 50 students were arrested at the state-run university.

Aleppo, Syria‘s largest city and economic hub, has a population that has remained largely loyal to President Bashar Assad and largely has been 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 Mr. Assad’s regime. Mr. al-Ahmed, a law student, said the campus and dormitories had 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, Mr. al-Ahmed said.

An amateur video showed a large number of security forces apparently storming the dorms Wednesday night. Another showed a students protest earlier Wednesday, during which protesters shouted, “We don’t want you, Bashar!”

The authenticity of the videos could not be confirmed.

The university was founded in 1958. The school’s website has a picture of Mr. 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. The Syrian government has prevented independent reporting in the country, making it impossible to independently verify casualty figures.

“Regime forces demanded through loudspeakers that the dorms be evacuated, then began detaining the students,” the LCC said in a statement.

Mr. al-Ahmed and the Observatory’s director, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said pro-regime students armed with knives tried to break up the protest before the security forces raided the dorms.

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