Grim milestone reached in Syrian civil war
In the 20 months that have seen protests, massacres, and finally a full blown civil war in Syria, 40,000 people have died.
Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said about half the fatalities were civilians and the other half split about evenly between rebels and government soldiers.
"The figure is likely much higher as the rebels and the government lie about how many of their forces have died to make it look like they are winning," Abdelrahman told Reuters.
The British-based Observatory, which supports the opposition, has been collating the names of the dead since government security forces started shooting pro-democracy protesters in March 2011.
Army defectors and ordinary Syrians took up arms against Assad and a civil war has since taken hold.
Abdelrahman said he only counts deceased people whose deaths are confirmed by friends or relatives.
"There are 10,000 to 15,000 people who were arrested months ago so we can't use that number as we don't know if they are dead or alive," he said.
Reuters cannot independently confirm the figures due to severe reporting restrictions imposed by the Syrian authorities.
The UN estimates the number of people held in detention at over 30,000, although many have been released after being tortured. Others have died in custody.
The rebels are getting stronger but are still unable to hang on to territory in the face of a determined counter attack by the Syrian army. The Syrian army is getting weaker but can still dictate its will on the battlefield, largely through the indiscriminate use of bombers and attack helicopters. Civilians are still dying, terrorist attacks are frequent, and the rebel ranks are being swelled by extremists.
This war is not going to end well, and the aftermath might be even bloodier.