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Dozens of Syrian children killed in school blasts

Los Angeles Times

BEIRUT – A pair of bombs ripped through a school compound Wednesday in the government-controlled central Syrian city of Homs, killing at least 32 people, most of them children, and wounding scores of others, the state media reported.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the double blasts and reported a higher toll, saying at least 39 people were dead, including 30 children. Other unconfirmed reports indicated that at least 45 were killed, mostly children.

State media said 115 people were injured.

Hanaa Singer, representative in Syria for the United Nations’ Children’s Fund, labeled the attacks “a despicable act against innocent children,” adding, “All parties to the conflict have an obligation to protect civilians and respect the sanctity of schools as safe havens where children’s right to education can be fulfilled.”

Even amid a punishing conflict that has left tens of thousands dead, there was widespread revulsion over an atrocity that Homs Gov. Talal Barazi denounced as “a terrorist act and a desperate attempt that targeted schoolchildren.”

Video broadcast on Syrian television and photographs circulated on the Internet showed the blood-spattered school grounds strewn with backpacks, notebooks and body parts. Distraught parents searched for their children. Others ran from the scene with the wounded in their arms.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on antigovernment rebels. Syrian insurgents have often used car bombings and suicide attacks, especially in Homs, which has long been a focal point of the conflict.

The bombs struck in Homs’ Ekremah district, home to many members of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The sect’s most prominent member in Syria is President Bashar Assad.

The initial explosion Wednesday came from a car bombing in front of the New Ekremah school, state media reported. A few minutes later, the official account said, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in front of the nearby Ekremah al-Makhzoumi school.

“The attacks took place at the time when students were leaving school, to inflict maximum casualties,” reported the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

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