Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Syria death toll tops 191,000, UN says

GRUESOME DATA:The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the figure is probably an underesimation of the real total number of people killed in the conflict

AP and Reuters, GENEVA, Switzerland, and BEIRUT

A man walks past damage and debris in Ain Tarma, in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, Syria, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

The death toll from three years of Syria’s civil war has risen to more than 191,000 people, the UN reported on Friday.

The figure, covering the period from March 2011 to April this year, is the first issued by the UN’s human rights office since July last year, when it documented more than 100,000 killed.

The high death toll is a reflection of the brutality of Syria’s conflict, which has transformed into a complex, multi-layered war where various factions fight against each other.

It also reflects the recent surge in deadly attacks by the al-Qaeda-breakaway Islamic State group targeting rival militant groups, mainstream Western-backed Syrian rebels and Kurdish militiamen in northern Syria as it seeks to eliminate opponents and consolidate its hold on territory and resources.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who oversees the Geneva-based office, said the new figures are so much higher because they include additional killings from earlier periods, as well as deaths since the last report. The exact figure of confirmed deaths is 191,369, Pillay said.

“As the report explains, tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict,” she said.

Men comprised 85 percent of the victims and women more than 9 percent, while the sex was unknown in the remaining cases.

The records show at least 8,800 child victims, although the age of most victims is unknown.

The figures are based on information from the Syrian Center for Statistics and Research, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Violations Documentation Center, the Syrian government and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Pillay criticized the world’s “paralysis” over the fighting in Syria, which “has dropped off the international radar” in the face of so many other armed conflicts around the world. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters she was referring mainly to a standoff on the UN Security Council.

Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main allies and has used its veto power four times at the 15-nation Security Council to prevent international sanctions on Syria.

In January, Pillay’s office said it had stopped updating the death toll, blaming the organization’s lack of access on the ground in Syria and its inability to verify source material. Colville said the new figures were released now because the UN improved its confidence in the way the analysis is conducted.

On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the number of deaths has reached 180,000.

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces have sent reinforcements to an air base being attacked by Islamic State militants in northeast Syria, where no fewer than 30 of the group’s fighters were killed on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The airbase at Tabqa, about 40km east of the city of Raqqa in northeast Syria, represents the government’s last foothold in an area otherwise controlled by the Islamic State group that has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

The observatory, which says it gathers material from all sides in the Syrian conflict, said the reinforcements had been flown in overnight into Friday.

It said at least 30 Islamic State fighters had been killed and dozens more wounded on Thursday by heavy bombardment and landmines in areas surrounding the base.

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