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WikiLeaks starts publishing two million 'Syria Files' emails

The whistle-blowing group is to publish more than two million emails that will "embarrass" Syria, but also Western nations that are dealing with the oppressive Assad regime.

Julian Assange in England in December 2010.
Julian Assange in England in December 2010.
CNET, Screenshot by Jonathan Skillings

WikiLeaks, the highly controversial whistleblowing group, has begun publishing more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries, and associated companies.

WikiLeaks says the data derives from 680 Syria-related entities or domain names, including those from the ministries of presidential affairs, foreign affairs, finance, information, transport, and culture.

Today's publication of dozens of emails mark the first cache released, with more to be published over the coming months. A number of media outlets are working in partnership with Wikileaks, including the Associated Press.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the Syrian government will not be the only ones facing criticism from the fallout of today's announcement:

The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria's opponents. It helps us not merely to criticise one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it.

The Syria Files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, but they also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.

Pro-democracy protests earlier this year led to a brutal, bloody government crackdown. Syria, led by President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, remains on the edge of civil war.

The United Nations along with other members of the G8 nations have on the whole kept distant from military intervention --- unlike Libya, which saw a barrage of air-strikes and destruction of high-profile targets in tactical coalition military raids.

It is estimated between 6,000 and 15,000 people have been killed during violent clashes in the country in the past 18 months, WikiLeaks said.

The database comprises of 2,434,899 emails, with 678,752 different email addresses sending to 1,082,447 recipients. The emails include many in Russian and Arabic.

The publication follows the vast trove of U.S. diplomatic cables between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. embassies around the world that were released by WikiLeaks, dubbed Cablegate, between 2010 and 2011.

In comparison to Cablegate, WikiLeaks said the Syria Files are about eight times the size in terms of numbers of documents and 100 times larger in terms of the size of data. Around 42,000 emails were infected with viruses or Trojans.

The Wikileaks founder was not present at the unveiling of the Syria Files today.

Assange remains at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after he fled there in June to claim political asylum. He lost a U.K. Supreme Court challenge to his extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning by prosecutors related to alleged sexual crimes.

If Assange leaves the embassy, he faces immediate arrest by London's Metropolitan Police for breaching his bail conditions.

Correction at 7 a.m. Thursday: A sentence was incorrectly attributed to Julian Assange.