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Published online 17 January 2013
Two explosions ripped through the University of Aleppo in northern Syria on Tuesday morning killing 82, and leaving more than 160 injured.
The first explosion hit a square near the faculty of architecture early morning as students sat the first of their mid-term exams. Minutes later a second explosion destroyed a campus dormitory.
According to the Syrian government's official news agency Sana, the explosion was caused by 'terrorists' firing missiles at the university campus. Eyewitnesses who spoke to Nature Middle East on the condition of anonymity say military jets were seen launching an air strike.
"I saw a MiG plane flying overhead and make two shots, one fell close to the dormitories and the other at the corner between the faculty of architecture and the faculty of arts," says Tony al Taieb, a law school student and media activist. "I checked on fellow students afterwards who told me that after the explosions they were locked indoors by security forces and told there was a terrorist attack and urged to go out in pro-Assad marches."
An engineering postgraduate student at the university says the second explosion happened within three minutes of the first. "The ninth dormitory building was severely damaged. Some 50 cars in the nearby busy street were on fire after the attack."
A professor at Aleppo University says the dormitories were being used to house refugees who have fled their homes since the outbreak of violence.
"Only 40 to 50% of the students here were still attending classes due to the ongoing events," adds the professor. "I don't expect this explosion to affect science research in Syria though. Researchers and professors will return to work once the armed conflict in Aleppo is over and security is back."
Some of the largest protests against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad have been staged on the University of Aleppo's campus. In May 2012, Syrian government forces stormed the campus after thousands of students staged a protest against Assad's regime, resulting in seven deaths and closing the university for several weeks.
The governor of Aleppo has postponed all exams set for Wednesday and Thursday this week until further notice.