Discuss as:

Syrian death toll soars with college blasts, triple car bombings

Syria closed universities and suspended classes for college students across the country today as anti-regime activists reported the death toll from two massive blasts that ravaged a campus in Aleppo reached 87. The opposition and the government have blamed each other for the explosions, which marked a major escalation in the struggle for control of Aleppo -- Syria's largest city and once the country's main commercial hub. NBC's Bill Neely reports.

The day after a deadly attack on a Syrian university, the State Department issued a statement saying it was appalled – and blamed the attack on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The State Department statement relays information from eyewitnesses at the scene, who said the regime “launched aerial strikes in the vicinity of university facilities.”

The United Nations said that if the attack -- which reportedly killed 80 people, most of them students taking exams, was launched by the government -- Assad’s government would be guilty of war crimes against civilians.  

Assad’s government denies the attack, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zouabi told NBC’s Bill Neely. He said al-Qaida is connected with the explosions. 

“It’s their trademark,” al-Zouabi said. He said the massacre was intended to lay blame on the government, portraying it as unable to protect its students. He said the government had “absolutely nothing” to do with the bombing.   

The State Department statement further condemned Assad’s government: “Our sympathies and condolences go out to all those devastated by this senseless tragedy, which is only the latest in a long stream of losses inflicted by the Assad regime on its own people.”

The university, located in Damascas, had been abandoned for many months, Guardian reporter Martin Chulov told NPR’s All Things Considered. A relative normalcy had returned to the city, as had a fresh infusion of food. The bombing changed that.