Middle East

More than 82,000 killed in conflict: Observatory

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BEIRUT: Nearly half of those killed in Syria’s 26-month civil war have been civilians, an opposition-aligned group said Sunday.

More than 82,000 people have died, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding it had documented the deaths of 34,473 civilians – among them 4,788 children and 3,049 women.

The death toll tops the official U.N. figure, recorded in February as 70,000.

The Observatory also recorded the deaths of 16,687 rebel fighters, including defected military personnel, 16,729 soldiers and more than 12,000 pro-regime militiamen, known as shabbiha.

The director of the Observatory, Rami Abdel-Rahman, told The Daily Star that the highest number of casualtiescame from Syria’s two largest cities, Aleppo and Damascus.

The capital has witnessed an increase in violence in recent weeks as government forces have been making a concerted push to force rebels from its southern outskirts, and as a series of car bombs have punctured the relative calm of President Bashar Assad’s base in the city’s center.

Aleppo, too, has been the scene of substantialbloodshed, with government airstrikes regularly targeting rebel-held parts of the city.

The Observatory told The Daily Star it collates its information from over 5,000 sources, including government hospitals. However, the group primarily relies on activist sources for its information.

The Observatory’s death toll comes two days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that between70,000 and 100,000 had died in the course of the conflict. Abdel-Rahman, however, questioned the reliabilityof Washington’s sources.

“Last Friday in Banias, we documented between 62 and 100 deaths, but the U.S. said 400 had died. All the phone lines were cut and there was no Internet, so where did they get that number from? This is a problem we see a lot with U.S. death tolls,” he said.

Banias is a Sunni area in the middle of a large Alawite enclave on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Opposition activists accuse militias loyal to Assad, an Alawite, of sectarian attacks on the area.

The Observatory says its toll does not include more than 10,000 people missing in detention in regime jails, or some 2,500 pro-regime prisoners kept in rebel hands.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 13, 2013, on page 8.

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