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Four dead after attack on Syrian anti-government student protesters

Reports say fellow students who backed the Assad regime joined forces with Syrian security to assault those involved in a protest march on a college campus in Aleppo.

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The head of the monitoring mission, Major General Robert Mood from Norway, told reporters during a trip to Hama on Thursday that observers were having a "calming affect" and that state forces appeared willing to cooperate with the truce.

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"There have been steps taken by the government forces on the ground that indicate a better willingness to live up to the commitments made in the agreement," he said, giving no details.

But clashes have continued, with rebel fighters killing 15 members of the security forces, including two colonels, in a rural part of Aleppo province on Wednesday.

Security forces struck in other parts of the country, too, activists said. They fired mortars at a village in central Homs province and killed six people when they fired on villages in northern Idlib province.

While the city of Aleppo itself has rarely seen clashes, there has been a string of assassinations there, apparently by rebels. The Observatory reported the killing overnight of Ismail Haidar, son of the head of a pro-Assad political party.

Videos and activist accounts, however, are hard to verify conclusively because the government restricts media access.

CAMPUS SURROUNDED

On Thursday afternoon, protests again erupted at Aleppo University to denounce the overnight assault.

"It is hard to get any information from the students right now. The situation is tense. Security forces are surrounding the campus," said an activist in the city called Mustafa.

While most opposition areas in Syria have been overtaken by an armed revolt against Assad, peaceful anti-Assad protests had been staged almost daily at the university in Aleppo.

It is hard to assess if those protests reflect widespread sentiment among the younger generation native to the city or whether students living there who hail from rebellious hotspots like Idlib and Deraa might be taking a lead in Aleppo.

Syria's uprising began in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrations inspired by a wave of Arab revolts against long-ruling autocratic leaders, but it has become increasingly militarised in response to Assad's violent crackdown.

The UN says more than 9,000 people have died in the crackdown, while the Syrian government says it has lost at least 2,600 of its forces to "foreign-backed terrorists".

The Observatory cited student activists saying security forces ordered students out of dormitories, from where protests had been launched, and had shut the university until May 12.

Despite the turmoil, Syria plans to hold a parliamentary election on Monday under a new constitution which has allowed the creation of new political parities and formally ended decades of monopoly by Assad's ruling Baath Party.

Authorities say the election is part of a reform process, but most of the opposition dismisses it as a sham. (Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Damascus; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria

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