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Explosive violence in May 2017

In May 2017, Action on Armed Violence recorded 3,223 deaths and injuries caused by explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 82% (2,649) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

This represents a 48% increase in the number of civilians killed or injured compared to April 2017, when there were 1,794 civilian deaths and injuries.

At least one death or injury from explosive violence was recorded in 24 countries last month. The five worst impacted countries were Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, the UK, and Pakistan, according to civilian casualties from explosive violence.

The UK’s place amongst the worst impacted countries is a rare occurrence. Last month, AOAV recorded 222 civilian deaths and injuries in the UK. These were all caused by one incident when a suicide bomber targeted civilians leaving a concert in Manchester. The incident was initially reported to have killed 22 and injured 59. However, a later update put the number of injured at over 200.

After dropping from the five worst impacted in April, Afghanistan, saw at least 731 civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence last month. This is the highest monthly casualty count that AOAV has recorded in Afghanistan since the Explosive Violence Monitor began in October 2010. The majority of the casualties in Afghanistan last month were caused by one attack. On May 31st, a huge bomb attack in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter saw 80 killed and 350 injured – a week later the death toll had been raised to 150.

In Syria, 93% of the deaths and injuries recorded from explosive violence were those of civilians, accounting for 822 casualties. However, the amount of civilian deaths and injuries is likely to be higher, as only 12 of the 113 incidents recorded civilian injuries, often despite high civilian death tolls. In Syria, airstrikes were responsible for 59% of civilian casualties, with US-coalition airstrikes causing at least 236 civilian deaths and injuries.

Whilst air-launched explosives may have caused the majority of civilian casualties in Syria, across the globe it was IEDs that caused the most civilian deaths and injuries – responsible for 57% of the total number of civilian casualties recorded last month. Air-launched explosives caused 22%, whilst ground-launched caused 18%. (The remaining 3% were caused by weapons such as mines or attacks using multiple weapon types.) Suicide attacks alone accounted for 43% of all civilian casualties.

When explosive violence was perpetrated in populated areas in May, 93% of the casualties were civilians.

AOAV strongly condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area affects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians. Further, given the increasing prevalence of IED use, particularly suicide attacks, greater efforts should be made by the international community to combat the civilian harm caused by such weapons.

To see the key findings from AOAV’s annual Explosive Violence Monitor report, ‘Explosive Truths’, please see here.