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Civilian casualties of explosive violence mount as Taliban capture Kabul, Afghanistan

The Taliban have entered Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul unopposed and seized the presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country yesterday (15 August).

The group have gained vast swathes of territory in recent weeks, from rural districts to provincial capital across the country, capturing 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in less than two weeks.

In these first two weeks of August alone, AOAV has recorded 107 civilian casualties of explosive weapon use, many of whom have been caught in the crossfire of artillery between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). 33 civilians are confirmed to have been killed by explosive weapon use, and 74 injured. Of these 107 civilian deaths and injuries, 60 were caused by IEDs, 39 by ground-launched weapons, and 8 by air-launched weapons.

Since May, when the US announced the withdrawal of troops and Taliban advances began to accelerate, AOAV has recorded 1,425 civilian casualties of explosive violence to date (16 August), and 1,587 armed-actors casualties. Civilians account for 47% of the total recorded casualties in this period (3,012). The number of civilian casualties has

UN data on overall civilian casualties numbers in Afghanistan has mapped the stark increase in civilian deaths and injuries that began in May and persisted through June. According to UN data, between 1 May and 30 June 2021, UNAMA recorded 2,392 civilian casualties, nearly as many as were documented in the entire four preceding months of 2021. This trend was even more pronounced in AOAV data on civilian casualties of explosive weapon use: between 1 May and 30 June, AOAV recorded 1,055 civilian casualties of explosive weapon use, surpassing the cumulative total number recorded in the first four months of the year (855).

Thousands of Afghan civilians have fled their homes since May, as fighting between the Taliban and ANSF intensified and airstrikes by Afghan and US forces increasingly targeted Taliban militants in populated areas such as provincial capitals. UN figures on displacement in Afghanistan state that 80% of the 250,000 civilians who have fled their homes across the country since May are women and children.

Images coming out of Kabul show hundreds of civilians crowding the airport in an attempt to escape as the Taliban take control of the city and nation. All flights in and out of the airport have been suspended and five people have died in the chaos, three of whom fell from the underside of the airplane they clung to as it took off. The US is sending 1,000 troops to assist in the evacuation and over 60 countries have issued a joint statement calling on the Taliban to allow people to leave.

It is important to note that the civilian casualty numbers of explosive violence since August are likely an underestimation, as the presence of English-language media reporters has decreased on the ground due to the deteriorating security situation.

Read AOAV’s analysis of a decade of data gathered on explosive violence in Afghanistan HERE