BEIRUT — The death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has climbed past 160,000, an activist group said Monday, a harrowing figure that reflects the relentless bloodletting in a civil war that appears no closer to being resolved.
The grim tally, however, only presents one facet of the tremendous suffering that Syrians have endured since the revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted in March 2011. The crisis has also uprooted some 6.5 million people from their homes, forced 2.7 million to flee the country, laid waste to cities and towns alike, and unleashed sectarian hatreds that have rippled across the region.
The government has presented Syria’s June 3 presidential election, which Assad is widely expected to win, as a means to end the conflict. The Syrian opposition and its Western allies have denounced the vote as a farce aimed solely at lending Assad a veneer of electoral legitimacy.
It also remains unclear how the government can hold a credible vote when the nation is engulfed in fighting and a significant chunk of the country is in opposition hands.
CAIRO (AP) – Al-Qaida‘s leader on Friday marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by calling on Muslims to strike inside the United States, with big attacks or small, using any opportunity they can to “bleed” America financially.
In an audio message released two days after the 12th anniversary of the attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri said America is not a “mythic power” and that the mujahedeen – Islamic holy warriors – can defeat it with attacks “on its own soil.”
Al-Zawahri, the successor to Osama bin Laden, used the anniversary to argue that the United States can be defeated by targeting its economy. At the same time, he also addressed the ongoing upheaval in the Arab world. Pointing to a power struggle going on within the rebellion against Syria’s regime, he warned jihadi fighters in that country’s civil war not “compromise” with more secular or moderate rebel factions, who he said would eventually turn against the al-Qaida-linked radicals.
The message’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a militant website commonly used by al-Qaida.