Syria war toll hits 115,200

Updated 28 December 2013

Syria war toll hits 115,200

BEIRUT: At least 115,206 people have been killed in Syria’s devastating 30-month conflict, most of them fighters from both sides, a monitoring group said on Tuesday.
“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the deaths of 115,206 people from the start of Syria’s revolution on March 18, 2011 to September 30, 2013,” the Britain-based group said.
Among the dead were 47,206 fighters loyal to President Bashar Assad’s regime and 23,707 rebels seeking his ouster.
Of those, 28,804 were regular troops, another 18,228 were pro-regime militiamen and “informants” and 174 were members of the pro-Damascus Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, the group said.
On the rebel side, 17,071 were civilians who picked up weapons to join the insurgency, 2,176 were army defectors and 4,460 were either foreign or unidentified fighters killed in battle.
Another 41,533 civilians lost their lives in the war, among them 6,087 children and 4,079 women, said the Observatory.
The group also said it has documented the deaths of an additional 2,760 unidentified victims, who it was not possible to identify as either civilians, rebels or regime forces.
The figures exclude people being held by the regime, who activists have said number in the tens of thousands.
“It also excludes more than 3,000 regime troops held prisoner by the opposition factions,” added the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics on the ground for its information.
An advance group of international inspectors arrived in Syria on Tuesday to begin the ambitious task of overseeing the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons program, kicking off a mission that must navigate the country’s bloody civil war as well as the international spotlight.
Twenty inspectors from a Netherlands-based chemical weapons watchdog crossed into Syria from neighboring Lebanon on their way to Damascus to begin their complex mission of finding, dismantling and ultimately destroying an estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal.
The experts have about nine months to complete the task, which has been endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution that calls for Syria’s chemical stockpile to be eliminated by mid-2014. It is the shortest deadline that experts have ever faced in any nation, and their first mission in a country at war.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.