More than 80,000 killed in Syria conflict: NGO

BEIRUT (AFP) - More than 80,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict since it erupted more than two years ago, a monitoring group said on Sunday.

Nearly half of those who died were civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog said it has documented the killing of around 82,257 people, including 34,473 civilians - among them 4,788 children and 3,049 women.

It has also recorded the deaths of 16,687 rebel fighters, including defected military personnel.

The watchdog said 16,729 soldiers and more than 12,000 shabiha (pro-regime militia) and regime informants have also died.

The bodies of another 2,368 people were found across Syria, the Observatory added.

The conflict started out in March 2013 as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad but spiralled into a civil war after the army unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.

Some 1.4 million people have fled the country while 4.2 other Syrians have become internally displaced, the UN says.

The Observatory says its toll does not include more than 10,000 people missing in detention in regime jails, or some 2,500 pro-regime prisoners kept in rebel hands.