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EGYPT: Protest death toll may increase, human rights activists warn

Dead The number of people killed in Egypt's protests against President Hosni Mubarak could be two or even three times higher than previously estimated, human rights activists warned Thursday.

Human Rights Watch has confirmed about 300 deaths, Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told CNN. However, independent researchers have not been able to gather information from across the country, he said.

"We can definitely say that the most conservative number is 300. It could be twice or three times, if not more," Bahgat said.

Human rights activists have been visiting Egyptian hospitals and morgues to compile a more accurate death toll, especially after a particularly brutal round of violence Jan. 28 and 29, he said.

But there are many places they have not been able to reach, or where they found officials unwilling to give them information, he said.

Tom Porteous of Human Rights Watch advised CNN against focusing exclusively on the number killed.

"A death toll by itself does not give an indication of the abuses that took place," he said in the same briefing. "The number of people who died from close-range shooting is an indication that there is a need for investigation."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: An angry crowd gathers outside the Suez city morgue Jan. 26 to greet a vehicle carrying the body of one of three protesters who died in clashes the day before. Credit: Mohammed Abu Zaid / Associated Press

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