Blasts hit military college in Syrian army college

Sunday 23 October 2011 03:13

Two explosions were heard overnight from inside the Syrian Army War College in the city of Homs, scene of military assaults to crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, residents said today.

The sound of heavy gunfire was heard and ambulances were seen heading to the compound in the old al-Waer district, two residents told Reuters by telephone.

"Smoke rose from inside the premises. The injured were taken to the military hospital. It looked like an operation of some sort," said one of the residents, who declined to be named.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian authorities.

Assad has been increasingly relying on the military, dominated by members of his own minority Alawite sect, to crush a four month uprising against his autocratic rule. Activists and diplomats say the repression has been triggering limited defections among the majority Sunni rank and file.

Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists from the country, making it difficult to verify witness accounts of events and official statements.

The government says the protests are part of a violent conspiracy backed by foreign powers to sow sectarian strife.

Syrian forces shot dead at least 11 people during mass protests yesterday against Assad, rights activists and witnesses said.

The 4-month-old uprising, mirroring unrest and dissent elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, is the biggest challenge to Assad's authority since he succeeded his father 11 years ago and it is spreading.

Rights groups say Assad's forces have killed more than 1,400 civilians since the uprising began. UN human rights advisers said yesterday the crackdown might amount to crimes against humanity.

* Also today, a train carrying 400 passengers derailed and its driver was killed when "saboteur groups" dismantled a section of a northern railway, Syrian officials said.

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