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      Syria: Twin Bombs in Idlib Leave 22 Dead

      Twin car bombs kill at least 22 people in Idlib, as universities mourn 87 people killed in explosions on the student campus in Aleppo.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 1/17/2013, 5:46 AM

      Site of University of Aleppo explosion
      Site of University of Aleppo explosion
      Reuters

      Twin car bombs killed at least 22 people in the Syrian city of Idlib on Wednesday, as universities nationwide held a day of mourning for 87 people killed in explosions on the student campus in Aleppo, AFP reported.

      The bombings had the hallmarks of operations staged by the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, a rebel group which has a strong presence on the ground in northwestern Syria and is blacklisted by the United States as a "terrorist" organization.

      Al-Nusra is an affiliate of Al Qaeda, believing in the hope of reviving the Islamic Caliphate that will build a Muslim Empire to eventually rule the world.

      The group is one of 13 factions in the radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force several weeks ago.

      "The first explosion took place in Al-Ziraa Square and the second explosion took place in Al-Mutlaq Square, killing 22 civilians and wounding 30," the state SANA news agency reported of Wednesday’s bombings, blaming "terrorists" for the blasts.

      Idlib city remains under the control of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad but most of the rest of the northwestern province on the border with Turkey is in the hands of rebels fighting to oust him.

      The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a higher toll of 24 dead and said most were soldiers. The Britain-based watchdog told AFP there were three bombs in all and that many of the wounded were in critical condition.

      "After taking the airbase at Taftanaz (on January 11), the city of Idlib has become the rebels' new target," Observatory directory Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

      The Observatory said that the death toll from Tuesday's blasts at Aleppo University could top 100 as many of the wounded are in critical condition, which would make it one of the bloodiest attacks of the 22-month conflict.

      No one has claimed responsibility for the explosions, and the government and the rebels have blamed each other.

      Opposition activists said government jets carried out an air strike, but the army said rebels fired rockets at the campus, which lies in a government-controlled area of the battleground northern city.

      "The General Command of the Army sees in the targeting of academics, colleges and universities further proof of the killers' dark methods, and of an ideology that belongs in the past," a statement from the military quoted by AFP said.

      In a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, the foreign ministry called on the international community to "denounce the terrorist massacre."

      Syria’s Higher Education Minister Mohammed Yahia Moalla called a nationwide "day of mourning" on Wednesday, state television reported.

      More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against Assad's rule erupted in March 2011, according to the United Nations.

      The World Food Program said on Wednesday that it would quickly try to distribute aid to an additional one million Syrians after Damascus gave the green light for it to work with local aid organizations to reach more of those in need.

      Previously, most of the UN agency's food aid was delivered through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which was overstretched and only able to provide help to some 1.5 million Syrians a month.