Improvised Explosive Devices

The Impact of IEDs: three years of data, 2011-2013

There has been a dramatic rise in civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) over the last three years, data from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) shows.

Numbers compiled from English-language media reports show there was a 70% rise in the number of civilian casualties globally from IEDs like car bombs and suicide vests last year compared to 2011. In 2011 13,340 civilians were killed and injured by IEDs. 2013 saw this number shoot up to 22,735.

In total AOAV’s data, which has been compiled over the last three years and is the only dataset used by the United Nations for tracking explosive weapon harm, showed there have been over 60,000 deaths and injuries from IEDs in 2011 – 2013. 81% of these casualties were civilians.

IEDs did not just impact Iraq and Afghanistan. AOAV recorded IED incidents in 66 different countries and territories in the last three years. Of these countries, eight, including Pakistan, Nigeria and Thailand, saw over 1,000 civilian casualties of IEDs.

New trends show that civilians are at greater risk due to the increased use of large vehicle-borne IEDs and the rise in the numbers of incidents occurring in populated areas.

The figures showed that:

• In 2013, 62% of all IED incidents took place in populated areas, like markets and cafes. This is compared to 51% in 2011.
• Civilians are at much greater risk from IEDs in populated areas. 91% of casualties from IEDs in populated areas were civilians, compared to 42% in other areas.
• Car bombs are being used more frequently. The proportion of IED attacks involving car bombs rose from 11% of all IED incidents in 2011, to 33% in 2013. Each car bomb incident caused an average of 25 civilian casualties.
• Over the last three years 34% of civilian casualties from IEDs were caused by suicide bombers. Suicide bombs were reported in 26 different countries, causing over 18,000 civilian casualties in the last three years.

“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,” said Iain Overton, AOAV’s Director of Investigations.

“Governments should wake up to this emerging reality. 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,” said AOAV’s CEO Steve Smith. “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.”

AOAV’s data on IEDs is drawn from almost 500 different English-language media sources. It captures only a snapshot of worldwide explosive violence as reported in the news media. As such it presents only a low estimate of the real extent of suffering caused by explosive violence.

AOAV has also produced a film that counters the narratives used by violent extremists to justify suicide bombings. The film can be viewed here.

AOAV has also carried out research on the long term impacts of IED attacks with a detailed examination of the aftermath of the Moon Market bombing in Lahore, Pakistan.

AOAV 3 year IED

Read AOAV’s annual reports on the impact of explosive violence:

2013: Explosive Events

2012: An Explosive Situation

2011: Explosive Harm

More about our work on manufactured explosive weapons.

More about our work on IEDs.

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.