Mortar attack kills 12 on campus in Syria

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BEIRUT -- Mortar rounds crashed into the campus of the University of Damascus on Thursday, killing at least a dozen people and wounding several others, according to official Syrian media and opposition groups.

State media blamed the attack on "terrorists," their label for the opposition, and rebels attributed it to the government.

"Each time the Free Syrian Army attacks regime targets, the regime retaliates on residential areas to make it look like the Free Syrian Army is attacking civilians and universities," said Loay Meqdad, a spokesman for the FSA, the Syrian opposition's main military group. "The regime attacked the university."

Fighting has spread across Damascus in recent months, following the launch of a rebel offensive to take control of the capital.

The mortar rounds fired Thursday struck a cafeteria area in the Architecture College in the early afternoon, when students were on campus. The attack recalled a double explosion at the University of Aleppo in January -- thought to be caused by rockets or missiles -- that left more than 80 dead. Government officials and rebel leaders also blamed each other for those deaths.

Separately Thursday, rebels claimed to have shot down an Iranian plane carrying weapons and supplies for the Syrian military as it attempted to land at Damascus International Airport.

Rebels have often accused Iran of supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad with men and materiel, an assertion that the Iranian government has denied.

Mr. Meqdad said rebel fighters planned the attack after receiving information about the plane's arrival time and its cargo from an airport worker who is sympathetic to the opposition.

A shaky video posted online by a rebel group called the Daraa al-Islam brigade shows a large aircraft descending near a grove of trees and bursting into flames.

The plane crashed at the airport, destroying other aircraft and cargo, the rebel group said in a short statement posted with the video. Mr. Meqdad said the crash caused a large fire at the airport, as ammunition and weaponry aboard the plane exploded.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency denied reports of any irregularities at the airport and said flights were arriving and departing normally.

In Jordan, on Syria's southern border, a riot broke out Thursday in a refugee camp after Jordanian authorities refused to let buses full of refugees return to Syria because of violence over the border. U.N. refugee liaison Ali Bibi said it was unclear how many refugees were involved in the melee at the Zaatari camp, but no one was injured.



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