Syrian army casualties surge, raising death toll

BEIRUT (AP) — According to opposition activists in Syria, more than 2,000 Syrians have been killed in just over two weeks of fighting — and almost half of them were pro-government forces.

That makes it one of the worst death tolls in the country’s civil war.

The report reflects a recent surge in deadly attacks by the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State group against government forces, as Sunni militants try to consolidate power in areas under their control.

President Bashar Assad’s forces have gained momentum in fighting with rebels trying to force him from power. Infighting has also hurt the rebel cause, with Islamic extremists battling moderate fighters.

The recent attacks came after Assad was re-elected last month to a third, seven-year term in a vote that was confined to government-controlled areas and dismissed by the opposition and its Western-allies as a sham.

Assad prayed at a Damascus mosque at the start of a major Muslim holiday today. He smiled as he was shown on state TV greeting Muslim clergymen at the mosque in his second public appearance in less than two weeks.

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APPHOTO BEI104: In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, shakes hands with worshippers on the first day of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at the Khair mosque, in Damascus, Syria, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/SANA) (28 Jul 2014)


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