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Activists say death toll in Syrian war tops 160,000

BEIRUT — The death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has climbed past 160,000, an increase of more than 10,000 in less than two months, an activist group said Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and has about 200 contacts across Syria, said it had documented 162,402 deaths in the conflict, including civilians, rebels, and members of the Syrian military. The Observatory put the toll at slightly more than 150,000 at the beginning of April.

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It said the current figure includes 53,978 civilians, 8,607 of whom were children. The total also includes militiamen, such as members of the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group who have been fighting alongside Assad’s forces, as well as foreign fighters among the opposition forces.

The grim tally presents only one facet of the tremendous suffering that Syrians have endured since the revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted in March 2011.

The crisis has also uprooted some 6.5 million people from their homes, forced 2.7 million to flee the country, laid waste to cities and towns alike, and unleashed sectarian hatreds that have rippled across the region.

The government has presented Syria’s June 3 presidential election, which Assad is widely expected to win, as a means to end the conflict. The Syrian opposition and its Western allies have denounced the vote as a farce aimed solely at lending Assad a veneer of electoral legitimacy.

The Observatory remains the sole organization providing a reliable tally of Syria’s war dead. The United Nations has stopped updating its own tally of the Syrian dead, saying it can no longer verify the sources of information. The world body’s last count in late July was 100,000 killed.

Civilians made up about a third of the Observatory’s new toll.

The uprising also has killed 26,858 rebel fighters and 37,685 Syrian soldiers, the Observatory said. It said 25,147 pro-government fighters also have died on the battlefield, including 438 Hezbollah militants and 1,224 Shi’ite foreign fighters and Palestinian militants.

The Observatory counted 13,529 deaths among foreigners and other fighters who have sided with the rebels, including members of an Al Qaeda-linked group and other hard-line Islamic groups. There are also 2,891 unidentified bodies in the conflict and 2,314 identified bodies of Syrian army troops who have crossed over to the opposition side.

The Syrian government does not publicize the number of its casualties.

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