On May 1st 2016, two suicide bombs were detonated in Samawa, southern Iraq – a mainly Shiite area. The blasts are reported to have killed at least 32 and injured 75. The first bomb was detonated near a local government building, whilst the other went off at a nearby bus station.
The predominantly Sunni insurgent group, ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The attack on Sunday took place after a weekend of violent protests in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The protests were said to be inspired by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who called Iraq’s leaders corrupt in a recent speech.
Shiite populations are often a target of ISIS attacks. Some of ISIS’s recent attacks targeting Shiites include: the suicide bombing at a football stadium killing at least 41 and injuring 105, suicide attacks on the Shiite majority city of Hillah, killing at least 47, and a suicide bombing at a market targeting Shiite civilians, which killed at least 67 and injured more than 150.
These targets can also be termed “soft targets”, where the casualties are likely to be civilians. When explosive weapons are used in markets, for instance, AOAV’s data shows that the vast majority of victims are civilians – 99%.
AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor 2015 found that last year 4,078 civilians were killed or injured by IEDs in Iraq, accounting for 80% of all civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Iraq. Over the last five years in Iraq (2011-2015) civilian deaths and injuries from IED accounted for 90% of all civilian deaths and injuries.
Given that IEDs are almost explicitly used by non-state actors, groups such as ISIS pose a significant threat to civilians, particularly given the lethality of IEDs like suicide bombs. From January to the end of March, 2015, AOAV’s Explosive Weapons Monitor recorded 49 incidents in Iraq accounting for some 957 civilian deaths and injuries. Of these incidents, 9 were suicide bombings, which alone resulted in a total of 512 civilian deaths and injuries – an average of 57 deaths and injuries per attack.
It is evident that suicide bombings, particularly, are extremely lethal and are seeing wider and wider use. AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor 2015 found that of all IED attacks, the ones that posed the most danger were suicide attacks.
AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and calls upon all groups to reject the deliberate targeting of civilians. States must urgently address the threat of suicide bombings and other forms of IED attacks. Reports by AOAV show the increasing use and harm of suicide bombings around the world. It is a growing reality that highlights the need for urgent preventative measures that States should establish – such as stockpile controls – to limit groups’ ability to produce these and other IEDs.
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