A Syrian woman cries over the picture of his dead relative, who died during the Syrian conflict, at the Martyr's cemetery of the city of Tartous northwest of Damascus on May 18, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID)
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Tartous has itself largely escaped the conflict in Syria, but posters of its sons killed fighting for the regime elsewhere in the country line the western city's main road.More than 162,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with a harsh government crackdown on anti-Assad protests.While coastal Tartous has remained relatively insulated from actual fighting, its residents have swelled the ranks of the army and pro-regime militia, the National Defense Force. The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor tracking the war's casualties, puts the number even higher, saying around half of the 60,000 regime fighters killed come from Tartous.Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman calls Syria's coastal area, where most residents share Assad's Alawite faith, "the human reservoir for the regime".Of the Alawites, 90 percent are employed by the state, in the bureaucracy or the army.
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