U.N. says Syria death toll has likely surpassed 100,000

An image provided by opposition activists in April shows a mass grave said to contain the bodies of people killed by Syrian army snipers in Aleppo.
(Aleppo Media Center/Associated Press)

BEIRUT -- The ever-escalating death toll in Syria’s two-year civil war has likely surpassed 100,000, the United Nations said Thursday, with more than 6,500 minors among those who have lost their lives.

Almost 93,000 people were killed between March 2011, when the conflict erupted, and the end of April, according to a statistical analysis carried out for the U.N. human rights office.

With a current average of 5,000 killings a month — up from 1,000 a month two years ago — the toll has probably topped 100,000 by now, according to the U.N. analysis.

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“This extremely high rate of killings, month after month, reflects the drastically deteriorating pattern of the conflict over the past year,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement announcing the grim tally.


The dead included at least 6,561 minors, including 1,729 children ages 9 or younger, the analysis found.

“There are also well-documented cases of individual children being tortured and executed, and entire families, including babies, being massacred,” Pillay said.

The death count — which likely underestimates the total, Pillay said — includes both civilians and combatants, though there was no official breakdown of the fatalities.

But human rights advocates have said that the bulk of the casualties are probably civilians — killed in bombardments, caught in crossfire, hit by snipers or massacred in what many call an increasingly sectarian battle.

Each side in the conflict has been implicated in mass killing, the U.N. noted, and the new study does not specify which side has been responsible for more deaths.

But Pillay noted that government forces have access to greater firepower -- including heavy artillery, aerial bombardments and specialized ordinance such as cluster bombs, which drop numerous bomblets. Each side in the conflict has also accused the other of using chemical weapons.

The report comes as government forces have made considerable battlefield advances, pushing back rebels in various parts of the nation and recently recapturing the strategic city of Qusair, near the Lebanese border.

The Syrian military is currently reported to be preparing an assault on the northern city of Aleppo, which has been divided between rebel and government forces for almost a year. Any battle to retake Aleppo would likely be protracted and bloody.

The U.N. has repeatedly called for negotiations to end the conflict, but diplomatic efforts to craft a cease-fire have failed.

A joint U.S.-Russian initiative to bring the opposing sides to the negotiating table has stalled amid opposition insistence that Syrian President Bashar Assad agree to step down, something he has vowed not to do. Assad has agreed to participate in the U.S.-Russian brokered peace talks.


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