December 17, 2014 / 4:27 PM / 3 years ago

Over 120,000 pro-Assad fighters killed in Syria conflict - monitoring group

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and media are seen at Hujaira town, south of Damascus, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on November 13, 2013.SANA/Handout via Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) - More than 120,000 fighters supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been killed in the country's civil war since it began in 2011, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.

Syria's conflict began as a peaceful protest movement calling for reforms in 2011 but descended into civil war after a government crackdown. In total, more than 200,000 people have been killed and millions more have fled their homes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 11,000 members of government forces and loyalist militias had been killed in the five months since Assad delivered an inauguration speech for a third presidential term.

In a breakdown of the casualties, the group said some 5,631 armed forces members have been killed in violence including shelling, gunfights, aircraft crashes, suicide attacks, snipers, executions and car bombs since the speech.

Another 4,492 fighters from loyalist militias had been killed, as well as 735 fighters of Arab, Asian and Iranian origin, and 91 from the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, the monitoring group said.

Shi'ite fighters including from neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon have joined Syria's fight to aid Assad, a member of the Shi'ite-derived Alawite sect, against the Sunni rebels trying to overthrow him.

Assad was inaugurated for a third presidential term in July after winning an election the opposition denounced as a farce.

Exact death tolls in the conflict have been difficult to verify, but the figures calculated by the Observatory are widely regarded as credible. The United Nations estimated in August more than 190,000 people had died in the conflict.

Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Alison Williams

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