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In Syria: 2,600 Dead So Far, U.N. Official Says

At least 2,600 people have been killed in Syria since the start of protests there in mid-March, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights reported today.

Navi Pillay said in Geneva that the estimate is based on information from "reliable sources on the ground."

She also said, as The Associated Press adds, "that her office continues to be denied access to Syria by the government of President Bashar Assad."

And, the wire service reports:

"Pillay told reporters after her speech that she was shocked by the continued suppression of dissent in the Middle East nation.

" 'The situation in Syria is still dire and I really regret that the Syrian government has not let in my assessment team,' she said."

Last week on Talk of the Nation, Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, said it is "totally untrue" that the Assad regime is waging war against its own people. He held to the regime's position that it is battling extremists:

"What is happening in Syria is that extreme fundamentalist Muslims are waging a war of insurgency. They have committed atrocities and extreme violence, and it's the duty of any government in the whole world, including that of the United States, towards its citizens, peaceful citizens to protect them. The war in Syria is a war between the Syrian army and the Syrian police and militant, heavily armed insurgents who have committed atrocities and continue to commit atrocities right now as we talk, particularly in Homs."

But activists, human rights groups and a former attorney general in Syria's Hama province tell a much different story.

As NPR's Kelly McEvers previously reported, Adnan Mohammad al-Bakkour, that official, "says he has detailed information on the deaths of scores of anti-government protesters on a single day." And, "Bakkour says he also knows about more than 400 protesters who were killed by security forces and left in mass graves in public parks. He says he was asked to prepare a fabricated report saying the victims were killed by armed gangs."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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