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Syrian deaths double to 191,000 in forgotten war, UN says

VIENNA — The number of Syrian dead has doubled to at least 191,000 over 12 months with no end in sight to the conflict that fueled the rise of Islamic extremism spreading across the Middle East, the United Nations said.

The number of deaths cover the period from March 2011 to April 2014 and are probably underestimated, the UN's Geneva- based human-rights office said Friday in a 26-page report that based its estimates on data collected by the Syrian government and rights groups. The last UN report, issued in June 2013, estimated that 93,000 had been killed.

"It is a real indictment of the age we live in that not only has this been allowed to continue so long, but it is also now impacting horrendously on hundreds of thousands of other people across the border in northern Iraq" and Lebanon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement. "The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis."

Syria's strife, which grew from initially peaceful protests to dislodge President Bashar al-Assad, has turned into a regional conflict spreading from Lebanon to Iraq. Extremists have used the dispute to swell their numbers with international recruits and declared an Islamic State spanning Syria and Iraq.

About 85 percent of those killed have been male, the UN said. A fifth of the deaths occurred in rural Damascus, the area around Syria's capital city, with another 16 percent in Aleppo, an opposition stronghold in the north.

International attention has increasingly focused on the Islamic State's spread. The U.S., which forewent military intervention in Syria, began a bombing campaign to curtail the group's spread in Iraq. Islamic State militants who released a video on Aug. 19 of the murder of an American journalist, James Foley, said a second U.S. citizen would die unless the air strikes were called off.

"Given the onset of so many other armed conflicts in this period of global destabilization, the fighting in Syria and its dreadful impact on millions of civilians has dropped off the international radar," Pillay said. "It is scandalous that the predicament of the injured, displaced, the detained, and the relatives of all those who have been killed or are missing is no longer attracting much attention."

Countries need to stop supplying the weapons and military supplies that are fueling the Syrian conflict, the UN said, adding that war-crimes allegations, including the use of torture, should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The UN Security Council broke its deadlock over Syria last month by voting to approve humanitarian-aid shipments to rebel- held areas. Russia and China, two of the five veto-wielding members, deviated from their usual voting pattern on Syria resolutions because the text did not directly threaten use of force or economic sanctions in the event of non-compliance by the Syrian government.

Estimates of the number of victims are probably low because the 191,369 dead in the study included only people who could be identified and had a known time and place of death, the UN said.

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