AOAV: all our reports

First 11 months of 2017 sees 42% increase in civilian deaths from explosive weapons compared to 2016

At least 15,399 civilians were killed in the first 11 months of 2017 according to Action on Armed Violence’s (AOAV) recording of English language media explosive violence events.  This devastating toll – up to the end of November – strongly suggests that 2017 was the worst year for civilian deaths from explosive weapons since AOAV’s records began in 2011.

This sharp rise, constituting a 42% increase from the same period in 2016, when 10,877 civilians were killed, is largely down to a massive increase in deadly airstrikes.

Compared to 2011, the first year of AOAV’s recording, the rise in civilians killed by explosive violence in the first 11 months of 2017 constitutes an 175% increase (5,597 died in the same period seven years ago).

On average, our records to November show that there were 42 civilian deaths per day caused by explosive violence in 2017.

For the first time since our recording of all English language media reports of explosive weapon attacks began, the majority of civilian deaths were by air-launched weapons. Of the total civilian deaths recorded (15,399), 58% were caused by airstrikes, mainly in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Civilian deaths from airstrikes in this 11-month period was 8,932 – an increase of 82% compared to the same period in 2016 when 4,902 civilians were killed, or 1,169% compared to 2011, when 704 died.

Significantly, as airstrikes are almost always used by State actors, rather than non-State groups, States were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths from explosive weapons for the first time since our records began.

Ground-launched weapons accounted for 11% of civilian deaths and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) accounted for 25% in the first 11 months of 2017.

Some countries saw substantial increases in civilian harm from explosive violence. Civilian deaths in both Syria and Iraq increased by over 50%. Whilst civilian deaths in Somalia increased by 200%, with a surge in IED attacks by militant group al-Shabaab.

The worst explosive weapon incident of 2017 globally saw at least 512 killed by a truck bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia in October, 2017.

When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 92% of casualties (both deaths and injuries) were civilians. In other areas civilians accounted for 20% of casualties. This has been a consistent trend throughout each year of recording. Despite this, the majority of incidents, 70% between January and November last year, continue to be perpetrated in populated areas.

Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), said of the findings: ‘These are stark figures that expose the lie that precision-guided missiles as used by State airforces do not lead to massive civilian harm. When explosive weapons are used in towns and cities, the results are inevitable: innocent children, women and men will die.  States need to ensure that their rules of engagement when using such weapons over populated areas are proportionate and are monitored with extreme care.’

‘Civilian deaths are not just a tragedy, but the reverberating effects of this violence fuels refugee crises, convinces many to join Salafist-jihadist groups in revenge and destroys families and communities for decades.’

‘We urge States to come together to discuss how to prevent such harm from increasing.  We support the political commitment being formulated that should encourage States to refrain from using explosive weapons over populated areas.’


For more information, please contact Iain Overton at or on +44 (0) 7984 645 145.