178 Malaysian students opt to stay in Syria

A handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA March 3, 2012, shows a blast site where a suicide bomber killed two people and wounded several others in the southern Syrian town of Deraa on Saturday. 178 Malaysian students in Syria have decided to stay on despite the situation becoming more critical.

JOHOR BARU - There are 178 Malaysian students in Syria who have decided to stay on despite the situation becoming critical there, said the Higher Education Minister.

Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the ministry had advised the students, but most of them wanted to stay on as they were going to take their exams or were in their final year of studies.

"We have briefed them on the consequences if they decide to stay on," he said after attending the Sara Hidup 1 Malaysia programme at SMK Taman Molek here.

Mohamed Khaled said the ministry had previously offered the students two options.

One was to be temporarily relocated to Jordan and the other was to return to Malaysia.

"About 222 students decided to take up these options," he said.

He added that the students who decided to remain in Syria had to sign letters stating that they understood the consequences of their actions.

"We are awaiting a decision from the National Security Council on the next steps to be taken," he said.

The United Nations previously said that Syrian security forces had killed more than 7,500 civilians since a revolt against president Bashar al-Assad's rule began in March last year.