RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WARNS OF IRAQ-LIKE SCENARIO UNRAVELING IN SYRIA
LONDON — The death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has exceeded 160,000, an activist group said Monday, a harrowing figure that reflects the country’s relentless bloodletting that appears no closer to a resolution, reports Associated Press.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it has documented 162,402 deaths since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s government began in March 2011.
The figure includes civilians, rebels and members of the Syrian military, the Observatory said. It also includes Lebanese Hezbollah members, who have been fighting alongside Assad’s forces, and foreign fighters battling with the rebels for Assad’s ouster.
The Observatory remains the sole organization providing a reliable tally of Syria’s dead.
The UN 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 dead.
The Observatory bases its tally on information it gets from a network of activists on the ground in Syria. The figures are based on the names of those killed, collected by activists who document the dead in hospitals, morgues and identify them from video materials.
Of the 160,402 people that Observatory said have died in the conflict so far, about a third — or 53,978 — were civilians. Those deaths include 8,607 children and 5,586 women.
The uprising has also claimed the lives of 26,858 rebel fighters and 37,685 Syrian soldiers, the Observatory said.
The Syrian government does not publicize the number of its casualties.
Meanwhile Russia said it was concerned that the situation in Syria may develop similar to the Iraqi scenario, and called for a peaceful Middle East, Xinhua reported.
“Geopolitical situation in the Middle East has been influenced by many internal and external factors,” Xinhua cited Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov as saying to the Interfax news agency Monday.
“One should not let the situation (in Syria) to deteriorate and develop along the Iraqi scenario,” Antonov said.
Antonov noted that many Middle East countries have been on the brink of disintegration following the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions which, in his opinion, have brought about stability and prosperity to no one.
He added that terrorism also remained an acute problem for that region.
“In some areas of the region there are a huge number of well-trained militants who can move to the other countries at any moment,” Antonov warned, adding that if the terrorists would seize weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it could evolve into a global crisis.
That was why all the countries are interested in predictable and peaceful development of the Middle East, Antonov said.
He hailed the ongoing work of the international community of removing chemical weapons from Syria, adding Russia supported the idea to declare entire Middle East a WMD-free zone.
“It is very much important that all Middle East countries to participate in all international conventions (regarding the WMD),” Antonov said.
He also urged all the countries of the region to put their nuclear facilities under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to sign the Comprehensive nuclear tests ban treaty (CTBT).