Syrian minister rolls back school toll, says nine dead

BEIRUT Fri Dec 7, 2012 12:16pm EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's foreign minister said on Friday that nine school children were killed in a "terrorist" attack on Tuesday, contradicting an earlier report from the official state news agency saying 28 had been killed.

State television reported on Tuesday that a rebel mortar attack killed nine school children and a teacher when "terrorists" - a term the government uses for rebels who are fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad - fired a mortar at a school in Wafideen Camp, in the Damascus suburbs.

A later report by the state news agency SANA said that the number had risen to 28 school children and one teacher. UNICEF, the United Nations children's fund, released a statement on Wednesday condemning the attack.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem was quoted on Friday by SANA telling Filippo Grandi, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency Commissioner General, that nine school children and a teacher were killed in the attack.

Reuters is unable to independently verify reports in Syria due to severe government restrictions.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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