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Malaysia evacuates 107 students, Syria

107 Malaysian students have been evacuated from Syria after the country’s 17-month old uprising intensified in Damascus last week. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the students had been flown home in batches on Thursday and Friday while 15 left of their own accord. Ironically, eight chose to stay.

“I was so worried and have been praying for his safe return every day”

Ruslina Abdussamad was overcome with emotion as her son, Abdul Halim Mohammad Ghazali, arrived on the first flight on Thursday.

“I was so worried and have been praying for his safe return every day,” she said, adding that she had not been able to contact the 21-year-old for weeks as his phone had been out of order.

While awaiting evacuation students said they had heard gunshots everyday and were afraid to leave the house.

“We were frightened as the sound was getting louder as the days went by,” Mohd Afifuddin Md Tahir said at Kuala Lumpar International Airport yesterday.

“We had to go out because we needed to buy food. But later the shops also shut down. We are glad to be back home.”

In the past week Damascus has seen its heaviest fighting since the conflict began, as rebel forces target the regime’s power base in a bid to end President Bashar Assad’s rule.

Damascus in the past week has seen it heaviest fighting

After deciding to close its embassy in the city, Malaysia faced an anxious week as it worked to secure exit visas for the students and other officials.

The Foreign Ministry said all 135 students and officials were accounted for and that it was working to convince the remaining eight students to return home.

“Our officers are still trying to persuade them,” Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Richard Riot said. “The safety of all Malaysians is our main concern. However, we have no power to force them to do anything.”

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