BEIRUT, Lebanon — The death toll in the three-year Syrian conflict has risen to about 162,000, an increase of more than 10,000 in less than two months, according to an antigovernment monitoring group that is one of the few organizations still attempting to keep an exact count.
The group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and operates through a network of about 200 contacts across Syria, put the death toll at slightly more than 150,000 at the beginning of April. It says the current figure includes 53,978 civilians, among them 8,607 children.
The United Nations stopped updating its Syria death toll early this year, citing the growing difficulty of verifying deaths. Journalists, aid workers and others trying to gather and verify information face multiple barriers, including bombardments, battles and kidnappings, as well as the combatants’ efforts to suppress unfavorable information. Social media provides a flood of information accessible from afar, but also mixes propaganda with fact.
The observatory’s director, Rami Abdul Rahman, says that his group counts only deaths verified by two independent sources. Mr. Abdul Rahman, a Syrian shopkeeper who lives in Coventry, England, fled his country in 2000 after associates were arrested for political activism. He and his methodology have been criticized by the Syrian government and also by the government’s opponents, something Mr. Abdul Rahman says he takes as an indication that he is on the right track.
At the same time, he says that no one can claim to know “the entire reality.”
Mr. Abdul Rahman claims to have contacts among government supporters and the security forces, and has provided rare estimates of the toll among pro-government forces: currently 61,170 Syrians, including 37,685 from the military and 23,485 from pro-government militias.
The observatory also said that it had tallied 438 dead from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia fighting on the government side, which has not cited a figure for its own losses. And the observatory said that 1,224 non-Syrian, pro-government fighters had also died. Iraqi and other foreign fighters, most of them Shiite Muslims, have flocked to the government side, much as foreign Sunnis have joined the insurgents, as the war takes on regional sectarian overtones.
The observatory said that 42,701 antigovernment fighters had been killed, including more than 13,500 from jihadist groups like the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, both of which are affiliated with Al Qaeda. It has also documented more than 2,000 deaths of people whose names and affiliations could not be determined.
The conflict has also displaced nearly half the country’s population.
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(via NY Times)