More than 6,800 women and children have been killed in two years of fighting in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said on Monday, putting the total toll at around 59,000 dead.
That figure is lower than the roughly 70,000 people that the United Nations says it believes have been killed since Syrian opposition activists began an uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Observatory, which relies on a vast network of medical and activist sources on the ground, says its figures are largely based on lists of names of people who have identified and confirmed dead.
But among those whose identities are still unknown are 1,086 opposition fighters, "most of them from outside Syria," according to Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, as well as 1,973 unidentified civilians.
According to the group, "59,584 people have been killed up to March 17, 2013, including 4,264 children under the age of 18, and 2,579 women over the age of 18."
The victims include 40,390 civilians, and 1,783 defected soldiers, the group said. It counts Syrian citizens who have taken up arms against the regime as civilians, but treats them separately from those who defected from the military.
It said 14,752 regime forces had been killed in fighting.
The group believes the real number of deaths in the last two years "among rebel fighters and Syrian regime forces is twice the number" currently available, in part due to "extreme secrecy about causalities during clashes."
The Observatory said its toll does not include hundreds of people likely to have died in prison during the conflict, or informers working with the regime "estimated at more than 12,000 people, because the deaths could not be documented."