The attack occurred at around 10am this morning in the volatile Khost province which borders Pakistan to Afghanistan’s east. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing a Pakistan army offensive against the Taliban, crossing the border into Khost in recent months. While the Taliban deny responsibility for today’s attack, they have a long-term presence in the area.
The suicide bomber targeted a crowd of several hundred people protesting in front of the provincial governor’s compound in Khost city. Protestors who had gathered in recent days are demanding that the governor, Abdul Jabbar Naeemi, should resign over claims that he has been corrupt and has taken funds intended for development projects.
Afghanistan has been plagued by explosive violence for years, but such violence has increased since the withdrawal of NATO forces in December. According to the UN, 2014 was the worst year for violent civilian deaths in Afghanistan since 2009, with over 10,000 civilian casualties
In January and February 2015, AOAV recorded 289 deaths and injuries caused by explosive weapons in Afghanistan, 177 of which were as a result of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan. Suicide bombing dominates as the biggest civilian killer in the country: 72 per cent (129 casualties) of IED casualties in Afghanistan were caused by suicide attacks. Globally, 964 civilians were killed and injured in suicide attacks in the first two months of 2015 alone.
Since 2011, the number of civilian casualties from suicide attacks recorded by AOAV has increased by one third globally, from 5,533 casualties in 2011 to 7,291 casualties in 2013.
AOAV has highlighted the myriad of harms caused by IEDs, including death, injury, mental health injury and harm to the economies of affected areas. In September 2014, we brought together a group of experts for a roundtable at Chatham House, concluding that the next steps which must be taken in addressing IED harm are the following:
- Quantifying the impact of IEDs
- A review of current data collection efforts to record IED-related incidents
- An increased focus on the collection and dissemination of such data
- Developing an improved definition of exactly what is an IED
- Stigmatising the use of IEDs by non-state armed actors.
Such action to address the impacts of IEDs must be taken. The continuing use of IEDs globally, and the harm caused by incidents including the suicide bombing in Afghanistan, must be tackled.
AOAV condemns today’s attack in Afghanistan, and calls for states and international organisations to work collaboratively to generate greater awareness of the number of civilians killed and injured each year by IEDs, and encourage a greater stigma from political, religious and social leaders on the use of IEDs.
To read more about AOAV’s research into IEDs, please click here.
To see a short anti-suicide bomb film produced by AOAV, please click here.
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