June 26, 2013

Syrian Group Says War Deaths Top 100,000


LONDON -- An opposition monitoring group that has tracked Syria's widening civil war said on Wednesday that more than 100,000 people had died in the 27-month-old conflict, with pro-government forces taking far more casualties than rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, while civilians accounted for more than one-third of the overall fatalities, the biggest single category.

The group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and relies on a network of activists in Syria for its information, put the total number of dead at 100,191 since the Syrian revolt began in March, 2011 -- several thousand more than the newest United Nations estimate of at least 93,000 by the end of April.

The United States and the opposition estimates offered the caveat that the true scale of the killing may be much greater.

"The death toll does not include more than 10,000 detainees and missing persons inside of regime prisons, nor does it include more than 2,500 regular soldiers and pro-regime militants held captive by rebel fighters," the group said in a statement on its Web site.

"We also estimate that the real number of casualties from regular forces and rebel fighters is twice the number documented, because both sides are discreet about the human losses resulting from clashes," the statement added.

In its breakdown, the group said the dead included 36,661 civilians, including 8,000 women and children, 13,539 rebel fighters and 2,015 defectors from government forces. It was not immediately clear from the statement how the civilians died.

Among pro-government forces, the group said 25,407 regular soldiers had been killed along with 17,311 members of militias and pro-government units including some listed as informers for the government.

The war has drawn in an unknown number of foreign militants and outside fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah forces. The figures released Wednesday said the dead included more than 2,500 unidentified and non-Syrian combatants on the rebel side and 169 fighters from Hezbollah.

The figures suggested that, among combatants, the number of pro-government casualties was almost more than twice as high as those among the rebels and their foreign allies.

Rami Abdul Rahman, the founder of the Syrian Observatory, said in a telephone interview that the statistics were compiled by adding together the daily tallies his organization has kept since the beginning of the uprising.

Those daily figures, in turn, he said, were based on information from a variety of sources like the organization's activists on the ground in Syria, lawyers and health workers in civilian and military hospitals, rather than from combatants whose estimates could be unreliable.

Throughout the Syrian conflict, both sides have sought advantage in propaganda and media campaigns that have figured prominently alongside physical combat.

"In war, both sides lie," Mr. Abdul Rahman said, citing examples of exaggerated death tolls that were not corroborated by evidence from activists, and other cases when people who died of natural causes were listed as combat deaths.

Earlier this year, Mr. Abdul Rahman, who fled Syria 13 years ago, said his network relied on four men inside Syria who help to report and collate information from more than 230 activists on the ground. His group is based in the English Midlands city of Coventry and operates out of a semidetached redbrick house on a residential street.