March deadliest month in Syria as 6000 killed

March deadliest month in Syria as 6000 killed

March deadliest month in Syria as 6000 killed

Men walk along a damaged street filled with debris in Deir ez-Zor. According to a activist group, March was the bloodiest month in the two-year conflict as 1,486 rebels and army defectors and 1,464 soldiers from the army. REUTERS photo

March was the bloodiest month yet in Syria’s two-year-old conflict with more than 6,000 documented deaths, a leading anti-regime activist group said April 1, blaming the increase on heavier shelling and more violent clashes.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the increased toll is likely incomplete because both the Syrian army and the rebel groups fighting the government often underreport their dead in the civil war.

‘Both sides hide info’

“Both sides are hiding information,” Abdul-Rahman said. “It is very difficult to get correct info on the fighters because they don’t want the information to hurt morale.”

The Observatory, which works through a network of contacts in Syria, said those killed in March included similar numbers of combatants on both sides: 1,486 rebels and army defectors and 1,464 soldiers from the Syrian army. But the number of civilians killed exceeded them both: 2,080 total for the month, including 298 children and 291 women. In addition, there were 387 unidentified civilians and 588 unidentified fighters, most of them foreigners fighting with the rebels, bringing the March total to 6,005, Abdul-Rahman said.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered yesterday an amnesty deal to kidnappers, giving them 15 days to hand over victims or face a life of hard labor, state news agency SANA said.

Kidnappers who do not release victims within the 15 days will be sentenced to “a life of hard labor,” or executed if their victims have been killed or sexually abused, SANA said. “Anyone who has kidnapped a person for a ransom and deprived him of his liberty for political, financial or sectarian reasons will be sentenced to a life of hard labor,” said the decree, according to SANA.

Kidnappers will be “executed if the crime led to the (victim’s) death or permanent disability, as well as in case of sexual assault”, the decree added.