Almost 93,000 people have been confirmed killed in the Syrian conflict, but the real number is likely to be far higher, the UN says.
Its analysis documented 92,901 killings in Syria between March 2011 and the end of April 2013. But UN's top human rights official, Navi Pillay, acknowledged that it was impossible to put an exact figure on the death toll from Syria's upward spiral of violence.
The last such analysis, in January, had documented nearly 60,000 killings through the end of November. The latest figures add more killings to that time period, plus some 27,000 more between December and April.
"The constant flow of killings continues at shockingly high levels, with more than 5,000 killings documented every month since last July," said Ms Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights. "This is most likely a minimum casualty figure. The true number of those killed is potentially much higher."
Among the victims were at least 6,561 children, including 1,729 children younger than 10. "There are also well-documented cases of individual children being tortured and executed, and entire families including babies being massacred - which, along with this devastatingly high death toll, is a terrible reminder of just how vicious this conflict has become," she said.
Eight data sets with 263,000 reported killings were studied for the analysis that the UN commissioned from San Francisco-based Human Rights Data Analysis Group. Those lacking a name, date and location of death were excluded, and some duplicates were found.
Since the start of the peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, which turned into an armed rebellion and then morphed into civil war, the average monthly number of documented killings has risen from around 1,000 per month in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 per month since last July. At its height from July to October 2012, the number of killings rose above 6,000 per month.
Syrian rebels have gained control of a key military base in the central Hama province after intense clashes with regime forces, activists said. The base is on the northern edge of the town of Morek, which straddles the country's strategic north-south highway leading to the province of Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels seized the base today after intense clashes with regime forces. The Observatory said the rebels killed six government troops and seized weapons and ammunition.
The latest battle came with the US government split over whether to arm the rebel forces or make other military moves that would deepen US involvement in the conflict. President Barack Obama's top national security advisers met at the White House on Wednesday to air their differences. "Nobody wins in Syria the way things are going," secretary of state John Kerry told reporters after talks with Foreign Secretary William Hague.
www.unhcr.org.uk/ (UN High Commissioner for Refugees)