AOAV has been monitoring the impacts of explosive weapons, both manufactured and improvised, around the world for three years.
Our data – that spans 2011 to 2013 – highlights the harm caused by explosive weapons when used in populated areas. Our findings provide incontestable evidence that explosive weapons are being used far too regularly in areas where civilians are at risk, and such use has a predictable devastating impact on the lives of innocents.
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Impact on civilians
Between 2011 and 2013 there were 102,698 deaths and injuries globally from explosive weapons. Of these, 79,600 or 78% were civilians.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were responsible for 65,303 of these deaths and injuries. 81% of these were civilians (53,008).
Manufactured explosive weapons (MEWs) such as artillery shells, rockets or missiles were responsible for 35,341 recorded casualties. 72% of these were civilians (25,326).
Our findings showed that over twice as many civilians were killed or injured by IEDs as by manufactured weapons.
It’s getting worse
There was a disturbing 70% increase in the worldwide number of civilian casualties from IEDs in 2013 compared to 2011.[i] Civilian casualties from suicide bombings went up by more than a third in 2013 compared to 2011.
Our data found that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas was the key factor in determining the numbers of civilian dead and maimed.
Over the three years, 91% of casualties from IEDs were civilians in populated areas compared to 42% in other areas.
Similarly, when manufactured explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 88% of casualties were civilians overall, compared to 24% in other areas.
The highest average number of civilian casualties from each use of a manufactured explosive weapon were from Ballistic missiles (46 per incident), Multiple explosive weapons (23) and air-dropped bombs (15). This shows quite clearly a worrying trend whereby the use of weapons with a particularly wide area-effect have the most severe cost for civilians, as opposed to say small grenades.
Moreover it is more likely for state forces to deploy artillery or mortars into civilian areas, rather than dropping aircraft bombs. Only 44% of state-used air-launched incidents over the last three years were recorded in populated areas, whereas 72% of state-used ground-launched incidents were recorded among residential buildings, factories, or markets.
Civilian casualties from suicide bombings rose by more than a third (35%) in 2013 compared to 2011. Over three years there were 18,233 civilian casualties from suicide bombings. Such bombings caused an average of 26 civilian casualties per incident and were reported in 26 countries and territories.
Car bombs are of particularly concern because they can carry a larger amount of explosives, giving them a bigger blast area. They caused an average of 25 civilian casualties in each incident.[ii] Furthermore, in the last three years there has been a tripling of car bombs as a proportion of all IED incidents.[iii]
The consequence of this is that, in 2013, civilian casualties from car bombs increased by 178% compared to 2011.[iv] Much of this increase was driven by their use in Iraq where 70% of car bomb incidents occurred in 2013.
We recorded the use of improvised or manufactured weapons in 66 countries worldwide. Of these, two countries stood out: Syria and Iraq.
Almost half of the global casualties in the last three years from manufactured explosive weapons were in Syria (45%). Meanwhile 46% of global civilian casualties from IEDs between 2011 and 2013 occurred in Iraq.
Read AOAV’s annual reports on the impact of explosive violence:
AOAV uses an incident-based methodology to record casualties (deaths and injuries) reported in English-language media-sources. No claims are made that every casualty or incident of explosive violence worldwide are reflected in this data set. In particular, casualties from particularly heavy or sustained shelling are thought to be most underrepresented, and these attacks are especially unsuited to an incident-based methodology, which requires a clear date (under 24-hours), a defined location, and a specific number of casualties in order for an attack to be included.
Manufactured explosive weapons are commercially-produced conventional ordnance. They can be deployed from the air or surface-level, and range in size and power from hand grenades to massive aircraft bombs and multiple rocket launchers. They can be used by both state and non-state forces, although governments exert a legal monopoly over the use of explosive force.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are weapons that are homemade or otherwise manufactured outside of the conventional arms industry. They come from a wide variety of sources, including homemade materials, diverted fertilisers, unsecured stockpiles or explosive remnants of war (ERW). IEDs range in size and power and can be victim-operated, detonated by timer, or by command, including suicide bombs.
[i] 13,340 in 2011 rising to 22,735 in 2013.
[ii] Compared to roadside bombs which caused an average of 4.
[iii] 11% of IED attacks used car bombs in 2011, 33% in 2013.
[iv] 4,123 in 2011 and 11,477 in 2013.
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