Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) records the incidents of explosive violence as they happen around the world. Using English-language media sources, AOAV collects data on attacks, including on the number of casualties and the weapon type used. This data is not intended as a comprehensive record of every explosion or casualty, but to serve as an indicator of the scale and pattern of harm that these weapons cause.
In a new weekly series, AOAV issues an alert for three countries where the recent use of explosive weapons presents a new threat to civilians.
Iraq: Fighting in Fallujah forces mass displacement
The Iraqi government has begun to carry out airstrikes near the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi after they fell under the control of militants. One attack on the outskirts of Ramadi killed 25 militants on 7 January. This is the first time in three years that AOAV has recorded casualties caused by the Iraqi state force’s use of explosive weapons.
The previous week, Fallujah came under the control of al-Qaeda linked fighters. In an attempt to dislodge the militants’ presence, the Iraqi army reportedly attacked parts of the city with mortars and artillery, resulting in the deaths of at least 19 civilians in overnight shelling on 4 January.
Since the start of the year at least 60 civilians and tribal fighters have been killed and nearly 300 people wounded in Fallujah and Ramadi in the recent armed violence, health officials have said.
More than 14,000 Iraqis have fled the threat of further explosive violence in the province to seek refuge in neighbouring regions after civilians were trapped for days without access to food or fuel.
Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said on 12 January that he would not order a military assault in the city of Fallujah, stating that he wanted to “The important thing is not to attack the city and kill innocent people because of these criminals.” However, while the security situation in Fallujah and Ramadi remains so precarious the risk of further escalation cannot be ruled out.
Somalia: Bombing of the Hotel Jazeera
Recent explosive violence in Somalia underscores the ongoing security threats to civilians in the country. On 1 January 2014, 11 people were killed, including civilians, when three car bombs exploded outside the Hotel Jazeera in the capital city of Mogadishu.
The hotel is located next to both the city’s international airport and a UN compound, and is thought to be one of the safest areas in the capital.
Militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the targeted attack, which injured at least 37 others. The first two bombs exploded in quick succession, and were followed by intense gunfire between militants and security officials. The third bomb struck half an hour later whilst the military were searching inside a car. Police believe that the first blast was a suicide attack.
In other violence, on 9 January the Kenya Defence Forces killed at least 30 members of Al-Shabaab in an air strike on their training camp in the Gedo region of southern Somalia. The attack is the second air raid to target Al-Shabaab since the group carried out a massacre in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September.
Lebanon: A further sign of Syria’s spill-over
A car bomb which exploded in Beirut on 2 January is the most recent demonstration that the civil war in Syria is continuing to spill-over into Lebanon. The blast, which killed six civilians and injured a further 66, took place on a crowded street in the southern suburb of Haret Hreik.
The area is a Hezbollah stronghold, whose armed forces have been using rockets and heavy explosive weapons in fighting inside Syria. The force of the explosion shattered windows 11 floors above the blast site, and hurled debris hundreds of feet across the city.
The attack came a week after another car bombing in Beirut killed seven people, including a former finance minister, Mohamed Chatah. That blast injured at least 71 people.
The recent spate of IED attacks in Beirut has led to a drastic change of lifestyle for the city’s inhabitants, who are constantly living in fear of the next attack.
Many people are now avoiding crowded places and social visits, and planning their routes through the city to avoid places that they feel are most likely to see the next car bombing. Nader Omari, who makes a living selling souvenir gifts along one of Beirut’s most popular shopping areas said “A lot of convoys use this street and I want to make sure there’s no car bomb waiting for them. It’s scary just being on the streets these days.”
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