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AfghanistanAOAV: all our reportsThe Taliban

Worst month for Afghan civilians in over eight years of casualty recording

Last month, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded over 1,000 civilian casualties from explosive violence in Afghanistan. This is the highest number of monthly civilian casualties recorded in Afghanistan since AOAV began monitoring casualties from explosive violence in October 2010.

Civilians accounted for 66% (1,013) of the total casualties from explosive violence (1,540). Of the civilians killed and injured, 89% (901) were from improvised explosive devices (IEDs); 5% were from airstrikes and 6% were from ground-launched explosive weapons. Suicide attacks alone were responsible over half of all civilian casualties (53%).

Prior to July, the month with the highest levels of civilian casualties in Afghanistan had occurred in May 2017, when a bomb blast during rush-hour in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter caused over 540 civilian casualties. That month 731 civilian casualties were recorded from explosive violence.

Kabul was the city most impacted in July 2019, with almost a third of all civilian casualties occurring in the capital (30%). Other cities among the worst impacted last month were Ghazni, with 214 civilian casualties, and Kandahar, with 99 civilian casualties in Kandahar city and a further 72 across the rest of Kandahar Province.

Non-state groups were responsible for 95% of civilian harm, though airstrikes by both Afghanistan and the United States caused civilian casualties.

Both ISIS and the Taliban are present across Afghanistan, which can make it difficult to identify the perpetrator of attacks. For 33% of civilian casualties from incidents by non-state groups, no specific perpetrator group was identified. However, for the total incidents in which a perpetrator was identified, the Taliban was responsible for 83% of civilian casualties from explosive violence in Afghanistan. The data suggests a rise in Taliban explosive violence and a decrease in ISIS violence.

Prior to last month, civilian casualties in Afghanistan looked to be falling. AOAV recorded a decrease in explosive violence in the first half of 2019, with 1,327 civilian casualties recorded; compared to 2,002 in the same period last year – a decrease of 34%.

Though in 2018, AOAV recorded a 37% increase in civilian casualties from explosive violence; from 3,119 civilian casualties in 2017, to 4,260 in 2018. Last year, ISIS were the main perpetrators of the violence, while casualties from Taliban use of explosive actually decreased by 27%. Though the figure was viewed cautiously given the difficulty in attributing responsibility. (There was a 37% increase in civilian casualties from incidents by non-state actors where the perpetrating group was unknown.)

Nevertheless, the rise seen in July 2019 is concerning and demonstrates the volatility of the country where the use of explosive violence can rapidly escalate.

AOAV calls for states and international organisations to work collaboratively to generate greater awareness of the number of civilians killed and injured by IEDs, and encourage a greater stigma from political, religious and social leaders on the use of IEDs. There is an urgent need for preventative measures to be implemented by States and the international community.