In the first six months of 2019, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has recorded over 12,900 casualties from explosive violence, as reported in English-language news media. Of these, over 63% have been civilians (8,169).
This points to a further decline in the number of reported civilian casualties from explosive weapons globally, with 14,103 civilian casualties reported in the same period of 2018 – amounting to a 42% decrease in 2019. This reduction, for the most-part, occurred across all major weapon types and in most of the worst impacted countries.
Nevertheless, 92% of civilian casualties (7,510) occurred in populated areas, such as towns and cities. AOAV has consistently shown that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, civilians are likely to account for over 90% of the casualties. A trend that continued this year.
When explosive violence was used in populated areas 90% of casualties were civilian. This compares to 15% in areas not reported as populated.
While the overall downward trajectory is welcomed, AOAV continued to observe some worrying trends from the data.
Non-state explosive violence, despite seeing an overall decrease, accounted for 58% of all civilian casualties. Some key groups in particular have seen rises in civilian casualties. AOAV saw a 39% increase in civilian casualties from ISIS’s use of explosive weapons in Iraq and Syria in 2019, compared to the same period last year (from 304 to 424). This could suggest a regrouping of the organisation.
ISIS and their affiliates are also making their influence felt elsewhere, including in Sri Lanka, where over 750 civilian casualties were recorded from the suicide bombings on Easter Sunday, and in the Philippines, where ISIS-affiliates, Abu Sayyaf, targeted a church service on Jolo Island in January, leaving over 120 civilian casualties.
Civilian casualties from Houthi rebel use of explosive violence increased by 218% (from 92 reported civilian casualties in the first half of 2018 to 293 in 2019). While Al Shabaab’s use of explosive violence saw civilian casualties from its terrorism increase by 50% (from 238 to 356).
In Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines this had led to increases in the overall numbers of civilian casualties. (Somalia saw civilian casualties from explosive violence increase by 34%, from 311 in the first half of 2018 to 416 in 2019; Sri Lanka saw a rise of 6745%, from 11 to 753; and, in the Philippines there was a rise of 170% from 66 to 178.)
However, in some states, while not seeing drastic changes in the casualty levels, they are seeing changes in the type of violence causing the casualties. For example, in Libya, casualties from IEDs decreased significantly, from 276 to 22, while civilian casualties from airstrikes and shelling increased, from 19 to 121 and from 43 to 80, respectively. While ISIS groups in Libya seem to be carrying out less explosive attacks, the use and impact of explosive violence by Libyan government forces and those under General Haftar has increased, particularly since Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to seize the Libyan capital in April.
Similarly, in Pakistan, while a decrease in shelling by India has contributed to the overall decrease in civilian casualties, civilian casualties from IED incidents have more than doubled, increasing by 157% (from 106 to 272); with most of the casualties recorded in each year occurring in Jammu and Kashmir region.
While in Afghanistan, casualties from IEDs have decreased by 49% in 2019, compared to the same period last year. Despite the fall in IED use increases have been recorded in civilian casualties from both air-launched (6%) and ground-launched weapons (69%).
Further key findings from 2019 can be seen below:
- When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 90% of those killed and injured were civilians. This compares to 15% in other areas.
- In total, 7,510 civilians were killed and injured in populated areas.
- AOAV recorded 12,902 deaths and injuries by explosive weapons in 1,720 incidents in the first half of 2019. Of these, 8,169 were civilians – 63%.
- In total, 6,137 people were killed (of which 2,972 were civilians), and 6,765 were injured (of which 5,197 were civilians) by explosive weapons globally. This means 48% of all people killed and 77% of all people injured by explosive violence were civilians.
- Civilian deaths and injuries in populated areas represented 92% of all reported civilian deaths and injuries.
- Globally, state use of explosive violence has caused 2,736 civilian deaths and injuries in the first six months of 2019; 33% of all civilian casualties.
- Non-state use of explosive violence caused 4,740 civilian deaths and injuries, accounting for 58% of civilian casualties.
- The number of total casualties from explosive violence has decreased by 31% in the first six months of 2019, compared to the same period last year. Civilian casualties have decreased by 42%.
- Incidents caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed and injured more civilians than any other weapon type. IEDs were responsible for at least 49% of all civilian casualties from explosive violence in the first half of 2019. Air-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 23% of all civilian deaths and injuries. Ground-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 22%. The remaining casualties were caused by incidents using multiples types of explosive weapons, mines and naval-launched explosives.
- Syria, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Yemen and Somalia have seen the highest numbers of civilian deaths and injuries so far in 2019 with 3,116, 1,327, 753, 537 and 416 civilian casualties respectively.
- Four countries have already seen over 500 civilian deaths and injuries in 2019.
- Incidents were recorded in 49 countries and territories around the world; one less than recorded in the same period in 2018.
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