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Explosive violence: February 2015

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) records incidents of explosive violence as they occur around the world. Since 1 October 2010 AOAV has used English-language media sources to capture information on attacks, including on the number of casualties and the weapon type used.

February saw more than 3,200 casualties of explosive violence worldwide, a 5% increase from January 2015. Of these, 71% were civilians (2,281).

Read the full report here:


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*123 civilians were killed or injured by mines or combinations of launch methods.

Top Story: Nigeria – Suicide bombings and cross-border impacts of violence 

Nigeria is regularly in the top five countries with the most civilian casualties from explosive weapons worldwide. However, in February 2015, the impacts of violence in Nigeria were felt acutely not only within its own borders, but also in neighbouring Niger.

  • In Nigeria, 16 IED attacks, 11 of which involved a suicide bomber, killed and injured a total of 313 people. Of these, 96% (300) were civilians.
  • The worst IED attack occurred on 15 February when a teenage girl detonated an IED in a bus station in Yobe State, killing 16 civilians and injuring a further 30. Most of these casualties were reported as being children.
  • The violence in Nigeria spilled over into neighbouring Niger in February 2015. Two separate incidents killed and injured a total of 66 people, 64 of whom were civilians. An airdropped bomb, reportedly dropped by the Nigerian Air Force, killed 37 people attending a funeral gathering on 17 February. The incident occurred as part of a cross-border offensive against Boko Haram. In February three different military forces, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria, were reported to have joined forces to bomb Boko Haram. The crisis is becoming increasingly internationalised, as as the funeral strike in Niger shows, civilians now face death or injury from explosive weapons in multiple countries in west Africa.

Read AOAV’s report on the continuing violence in Nigeria, The deadly burden of violence in Nigeria.’ 

Aid In Danger: Islamic State captive killed in apparent shelling

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Kyla Mueller was the “unknown female captive” of the Islamic State. A young American woman, she moved to the Syrian border in December 2012 to work for aid agencies. Eight months later she accompanied a Syrian friend on a trip to Aleppo, where she interviewed patients at a Médécins Sans Frontières medical facility. Kyla was abducted by Islamic State (IS) militants when she was leaving the MSF hospital.

On 6 February 2015, 18 months into her captivity, Kyla’s death was announced by her captors.

How did Kyla Mueller die? Her captors blamed her death on Jordanian airstrikes, circulating a photo of the building she was supposedly held in after it had been hit by shelling outside the town of Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamist militants. The Jordanian Air Force denied that the attack caused her death.

We will likely never know the truth. Her tragic death illustrates the indiscriminate nature of explosive weapons in populated areas, and the uncertainty that often follows an attack. This particular Jordanian Air Force strike hit roughly 20 buildings, which were described as a ‘weapon storage area.’ The US military indicated that the photo circulated by the Islamic State was among the facilities affected, but a White House spokesman claimed there was “no evidence of civilians in the target area prior to the coalition strike taking place.”

While anonymous experts examined photos of Kyla’s body, they could not determine the cause of death, or whether her injuries were consistent with being killed in the flattened building, as claimed by IS. It is impossible to confirm or deny that the air strike killed Kyla.

The use of explosive weapons may have inadvertently caused the death of a kidnapped civilian. Equally, IS may have used the airstrike as propaganda, exploiting the imprecise nature of explosive weapons and the fact that it is impossible to account for their impact with certainty. Her death is a tragic example of the difficulty in accurately determining the number and nature of casualties from explosive weapons and to predict and report their full impact.

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For the latest analysis and research of developments in explosive violence go to:

Manufactured Explosive Weapons

IEDs and Suicide Bombings