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An Anatomy of a Grenade Attack: Global Trends

Grenades are one of the oldest explosive weapons. The first hand-thrown explosive or incendiary bombs appeared during the Byzantine Empire around the eight century CE, when jars filled with the “Greek Fire,” were thrown at enemy soldiers. Today, there are innumerable varieties of the grenade so much so that one expert concluded that “there are no unifying similarities between all grenades unless it is the fact that they are hand thrown” (and even this pithy summary doesn’t apply to grenade launchers.)  

The casualty radius of a grenade is between 5 and 20 meters; with a minimum of 50% of exposed personnel becoming casualties within a radius of around 15 metres from the blast. A single grenade can kill an individual up to 10 metres away and can cause serious injuries up to 20 metres away. However, grenade fragments can travel beyond 230 meters from the point of detonation.

According to AOAV’s EVM data, between 2011-2020, 8,951 civilians were killed and injured by grenades, at least 413 of whom were women and 546 were children. During the same period there were 1,908 armed actor casualties from grenades. On average, a single grenade attack will claim 5 civilian casualties and one armed actor casualty. 

In AOAV’s dataset the standard deviation for armed actor casualties from grenade attacks is 3 compared to 9.6 for civilian casualties. This means that there is much greater variation in the number of civilian casualties from grenades than armed actors, illustrating the unreliability of the weapon when used in populated environments and the unpredictability of civilian harm. 

A highly concealable weapon that can be detonated in confined spaces, the grenade is a weapon of choice for terrorist groups, criminal gangs, and individual ‘lone-wolf’ assailants. The RGD, F-1, RGO, RGN, M-67 and L2A2 are known to have been used by terrorist groups. AOAV’s EVM data reveals that 28.2% of all incidents of grenade harm in the last decade have been perpetrated by non-state actors, while state actors account for 1.5% of grenade attacks. That in 70.4% of grenade incidents the perpetrator is unknown speaks to the inherent unaccountability of the weapon which requires no launch mechanism and can easily be flung from a moving vehicle allowing the attacker to make a swift escape. Interestingly, 68% of grenade attacks occur at night (see Figure 2), when the precise time of the attack is known. These statistics paint a picture of a nefarious weapon, widely available, and one that is primarily used to inspire fear. 

Figure 2: Time of grenade attacks when data was available (2011-2020). Source: AOAV EVM. 
Figure 3: Perpetrator status of grenade attacks (2011-2020). Source: AOAV EVM. 

Over the past 10 years Pakistan has been the country worst-affected by the use of grenades, accounting for 23% of all grenade attacks worldwide. AOAV has recorded at least 384 separate incidents of their use in Pakistan, accounting for 1,997 civilian casualties (see Figure 4). The five countries with the most grenade attacks – Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Somalia, and Kenya – represented around 63% of all grenade attacks worldwide. It is worth noting that Kenya, the country of our case study, has suffered the fourth highest number of casualties from grenade attacks in the last decade. 

Figure 4: Ten countries worst affected by grenade attacks, including number of attacks and number of casualties (2011-2020). Source: AOAV EVM.

Grenade use has been declining over the last decade (see Figure 5). In part this reflects global conflict trends in which war is no longer fought by soldiers on the ground, but in the air and predominantly with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). To demonstrate this, in 2011 there were 234 armed actor casualties from grenades compared to 106 in 2020.

Figure 5: Number of grenade attacks when casualties were reported in the past decade (2011-2020). Source: AOAV’s EVM.

Report continues:

Chapter 2: Case Study – Nairobi, Kenya
Chapter 3: SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Chapter 4: SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Chapter 5: SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Chapter 6: SDG 4 – Quality Education
Chapter 7: Other Considerations
Conclusion and Recommendations