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Explosive violence in May 2019

In May 2019, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 2,348 deaths and injuries from 415 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 64% (1,499) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive violence was used in populated areas, 85% of all casualties were civilians, compared to 16% in other areas.

In total, 40% of all civilian casualties from explosive violence last month were caused by airstrikes, whilst 17% were caused by ground-launched explosives and 34% by improvised explosive devices (IEDs)– further casualties were caused by incidents involving explosives where the launch method was unclear, multiple types of explosive weaponry, and landmines.

At least one death or injury from explosive violence was recorded in 27 countries and territories last month. The five worst impacted countries were Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq in terms of civilian casualties.

Syria was the country worst impacted by explosive weapons in May; with 625 civilian casualties from such violence last month. In the last few months the civilian casualty toll has been rising but the total casualties recorded by AOAV is unlikely to reflect the true total. In recent months, AOAV have found civilian injuries in Syria are often not reported despite high numbers of civilian deaths. AOAV recorded 141 incidents in Syria last month in which no civilian injuries were reported despite these incidents having caused at least 276 civilian deaths – in total AOAV recorded 175 incidents in Syria last month that caused civilian casualties.

In total, 65% of civilian casualties from explosive weapons in Syria were caused by airstrikes; 4% were from IEDs, 18% from ground-launched weapons, and 1% from mines. A further 12% were caused by incidents using both airstrikes and ground shelling. On May 27th 2019, airstrikes and missile attacks across Idlib province in Syria killed at least 17 civilians and injured a further 47. Among those killed were at least five children.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, saw IEDs cause the most civilian casualties from explosive violence (68%), with a further 13% from ground-launched explosives and 19% from airstrikes. In total, AOAV recorded 340 civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan, representing 40% of the total killed and injured by explosive weapons in Afghanistan (847).

Yemen too continued to see casualties from explosive violence. Of the 98 civilians killed and injured in Yemen, 70 were from airstrikes, 10 from ground-launched weapons, 14 from IEDs, and 4 from landmines. One airstrike, on May 16th 2019, saw at least six civilians killed and up to 60 injured by the Saudi-led coalition bombardment of Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa.

In both Pakistan and Iraq, the main cause of civilian casualties from explosive violence last month, was IEDs. In Pakistan, they were responsible for 92 civilian casualties (of 95 in total from explosive weapons) and, in Iraq, IEDs were responsible for 81 of the 82 civilian casualties recorded.

AOAV 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.