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The Guardian: More than 53,000 civilians killed or injured by IEDs in three years

This article was originally published by the Guardian, on 3 July 2014.

The number of civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including car bombs and suicide attacks, has increased by 70% over the past three years, according to new research.

More than 53,000 civilians were killed or injured by IEDs between 2011 and 2013. Civilian casualties from suicide bombings went up by more than a third and attacks by car bombs increased by more than 200%. Civilians accounted for more than 80% of those killed or injured.

The figures were released on Thursday by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based research and advocacy group funded by governments, the UN, and human rights organisations.

Iain Overton, its director of policy and investigations, said: “This huge increase in the number of innocent victims harmed and killed by IEDs is a terrible concern – not only to those whose lives are transformed in an instant by these pernicious weapons, but to governments who have to bear the costs of the medical and security implications of these attacks. The use of suicide and car bombing as a major weapon is spreading, and fast. Countries that had not seen their use five years ago are experiencing their horrors now.”

AOAV recorded IED attacks in 66 countries and territories, though nearly half of all civilian casualties were victims of attacks in Iraq, where 70% of all car bomb explosions took place last year.

Of particular concern was that each car bomb attack caused an average of 25 civilian casualties compared to roadside bombs, which caused an average of four.

Suicide bombings – reported in 26 countries – accounted for about a third, or 18,233, of civilian casualties from IEDs – with attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.

There was also an increase of IED incidents in populated areas, which rose to 62% in 2013. This trend was significant as IED casualties are much more likely to be civilians when attacks occured in populated areas, AOAV said.

The number of civilian casualties from all explosive weapons in Iraq increased by more than 90% in 2013 compared to the previous year, the group said in a report published in April. Some 37,809 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2013 in more than 2,700 incidents.

“Governments should wake up to this emerging reality,” said Steve Smith, the CEO of AOAV. “Explosive munition stockpiles should be better maintained to prevent explosives from being smuggled out. Victims of IED attacks should receive proper medical and psychological help. And society at large should respond, condemning this rising use, just as they did on land mines and poison gas. Because if actions like these are not carried out then the use of IEDs in populated areas will continue its harmful and bloody ascent.”

Click here to find out more about AOAV’s work on IEDs.