Middle East

Death toll in civil war above 150,000: activists

File - A man walks past dead bodies in front of a river in the neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr in Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Abdullah al-Yassin)

BEIRUT: At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s 3-year-old civil war, a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.

The Britain-based Observatory, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of activists and medical or security sources, said that real toll was likely to be significantly higher, at around 220,000 deaths.

Efforts to end the conflict by bringing together representatives of President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition have so far failed. The United Nations peace mediator for Syria said last week that talks were unlikely to resume soon.

The last U.N. figures, released in July 2013, put the toll at 100,000, but the U.N. said in January it would stop updating the tally as conditions on the ground made it impossible to make accurate estimates.

The Observatory said it had registered the deaths of 150,344 people since March 18, 2011, when Assad’s security forces first fired on protesters calling for reform in the southern town of Deraa.

The Observatory detailed the casualty figures by separating them into eight different groups.

Civilian “martyrs,” it said, totaled 75,487 people, with this figure including 7,985 children and 5,266 women over the age of 18.

A second category identified as “martyrs” were defectors from the various state armed forces, and amounted to 2,286 people.

A third category, which in no specific term was assigned to the fatalities, covered fighters and jihadists from a range of groups, with the death toll standing at 11,220 people. This group included fighters from the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an Al-Qaeda splinter group that includes many foreign fighters.

Since early January, ISIS militants have been locked in a bloody campaign against the Nusra Front, Islamist militias and the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Categories four through seven detail the losses in regime troops and their paramilitary allies.

The Observatory said that nearly 60,000 fighters have lost their lives in defense of the Assad regime. These categories include the regular army and affiliated security forces (35,601 fatalities) and pro-government militias, such as the national Defense Army, the Popular Committees, the Popular Front to Liberate the Province of Iskanderon, the “shabbiha,” or other irregulars, and “informants” working for the regime (a total of 21,910).

Two separate counts of Shiite paramilitaries are given, standing at 364 casualties from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and 605 casualties suffered by other non-Syrian Shiites, such as Iraqi militiamen who are organized into a few dozen different fighting groups.

In addition to the fatalities, it said 18,000 people were missing after being detained by security forces, while another 8,000 people had been detained by rebel forces or kidnapped. It said these figures did not include another 1,500 fighters from Islamist and jihadist militias, and the Kurdish YPG militia, who had been kidnapped during the clashes between these various groups.

Although the Observatory is routinely identified as an anti-regime or pro-opposition source, some elements in the opposition have criticized its work, describing it as biased toward the regime, for various reasons.

In its statement announcing the new figures, the Observatory reiterated its previous calls for sending the files on human rights violations in Syria to international judicial organizations, specifically the International Criminal Court. Alternatively, a special tribunal for the crimes committed during the uprising should be established, it added.

The Observatory said that it was making the call for global action “despite the fact that we have lost hope in the international community and its intention to work to halt the killing and destruction in Syria.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 02, 2014, on page 8.




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