Beirut: Syrian forces stormed student dormitories during an anti-government protest at Aleppo University on Friday, firing tear gas and bullets in an hour’s long siege that killed at least four students and forced the closure of the state-run school, activists said.

UN truce observers toured other restive parts of the country and residents told them of being too terrified to walk on the streets after dark as the 14-month-old uprising rages on.

The UN estimates 9,000 people have been killed since the revolt began, and a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan nearly a month ago has done little to stem the bloodshed.

It was not clear how long the university would remain closed following the siege, which began late yesterday when around 1,500 students held a protest against President Bashar Assad's regime.

Pro-regime students attacked the crowd with knives before security forces swept in, firing tear gas and then live ammunition, activists said.

"Some students ran to their rooms to take cover but they were followed to their rooms, beaten up and arrested," student activist Thaer al-Ahmed said. "Others suffered cuts and broken bones as they tried to flee."

Raids and intermittent gunfire continued for about five hours through early today, he said, adding that dozens of people were wounded, some critically, and 200 students were arrested.

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 shout anti-Assad slogans from their rooms at night.

It was an unusually violent incident in Aleppo, a major economic hub that has remained largely loyal to Assad and has been spared the kind of daily bloodshed that has plagued other Syrian cities over the course of the 14-month-old uprising.

There have been a string of bombings near government security buildings in Aleppo and the capital, Damascus, adding a mysterious element to the anti-government revolt. US officials suggested al-Qaida militants may be joining the fray.

For the most part, however, Aleppo has been quiet. But university students many from rebellious areas such as the northern Idlib province have been staging almost daily protests calling for the fall of Assad.


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