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Death toll in Syria’s war at 162,000: monitoring group

BEIRUT, May 19, (RTRS): At least 162,000 people have been killed in Syria’s threeyear- old conflict, a monitoring group said on Monday, and thousands more are missing after being captured by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebels trying to overthrow him. The pro-opposition, British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said losses among fighters on the government side were higher than those among pro-rebel groups, and estimated that at least 54,000 civilians had been killed since the conflict began. It estimated 62,800 deaths among the army, pro-Assad Syrian militia, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and other foreign Shiite gunmen.

Rebel
That compared with 42,700 people who had died on the rebel side, including fighters from al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, other Islamist brigades, and soldiers who defected from Assad’s army. Nearly 3,000 people of unknown identity or affiliation had been killed, it said. The Observatory said all sides in the conflict played down their losses, making an accurate count almost impossible, and the overall death toll was probably around 70,000 higher at 230,000.

Efforts to find a political solution to the conflict collapsed in Geneva three months ago and the international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will step down at the end of the month. Assad, who has steadily clawed back control over the centre of the country, is widely expected to win a third seven-year term in a June 3 election which his enemies have condemned as a charade.

The Observatory said its figures did not include 18,000 people who had been detained by authorities and whose fate was unknown, as well as thousands more who were missing after raids by security forces.

Another 8,000 soldiers and pro-Assad militia were also missing after being held by rebels, and hundreds of people had been kidnapped, it said. A further 1,500 fighters were abducted during inter-rebel conflict.

Meanwhile, the minister of defence for Syria’s opposition government has resigned following disagreements with the body’s head, opposition sources said on Monday, highlighting divisions among President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents. Saudi-backed dissident Asaad Mustafa was appointed to his post in November as part of a plan by the opposition National Coalition to administer rebel-held areas of the war-torn country. But the government-in-exile has been unable to control disparate rebel groups, which include foreign al-Qaeda insurgents, and has received only marginal support from its Western backers.

Mustafa, in his sixties, served as minister of agriculture under Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, but defected after the uprising against 40 years of family rule started in 2011 and turned into a civil war. Arebel source close to Mustafa said he resigned on Sunday night to protest a lack of funds for his fighters from Coalition head Ahmed Jarba. But a source in the Coalition said Mustafa left after Jarba refused to appoint him as provisional prime minister, a post currently held by Ahmed Tumeh, a moderate Islamist. Mustafa “did not achieve anything. We lost Syria. We lost it to jihadis and to Assad,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Reuters was unable to immediately reach Mustafa for comment. Jarba will remain head of the Coalition until June, when a new leader will be elected unless his term is extended.

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