In July 2021, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 1,456 deaths and injuries from 209 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 61% (887) of the deaths and injuries recorded.
When explosive violence was used in populated areas, 87% of all casualties were civilians, compared to 11% in other areas.
Improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 34% of civilian casualties in July 2021, while manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 63%. Of the main launch method types, air-launched explosive weapons accounted for 7% of civilian casualties, ground-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 54%, IEDs for 34%, and mines for 3%. The remaining 2% of civilian casualties were caused by weapons with unclear, unspecified, or multiple launch types.
At least one death or injury from explosive violence was recorded in 21 countries and territories in July. The five worst impacted countries were Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia – in terms of civilian casualties.
Afghanistan was the country worst-affected by explosive weapon use in July, in terms of civilian casualties. Across 48 incidents, 263 civilian casualties were recorded — 50% of the total number of casualties (531) from explosive weapons use. 33% of the incidents were IED detonations, causing 36% (94) of the total civilian casualties. 33 of the 48 incidents of explosive weapon use took place in populated areas, and of the total casualties from these incidents (294), 82% (240) were civilians. The incident with the highest number of civilian casualties took place on 15 July when 12 civilians were killed and 20 injured in an airstrike by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in Shuhada district of Badakhshan province, according to local officials. Though Afghanistan remains the country worst affected by explosive violence, the number of civilian casualties in July is 27% less than the number of civilian casualties in June. However, civilian casualties still account for at least half the total number of casualties from explosive weapon use in the country. The most dangerous province for civilians in July was Kandahar, where 62 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapon use. The number of civilian casualties from ground launched weapons increased significantly, from 72 in June to 110 in July, whereas the number of casualties from directly emplaced weapons, specifically IEDs, dropped from 231 civilian casualties in June to 94 in July. This is representative of a shift in tactics by the Taliban, as the Islamic fundamentalist group began focussing their efforts on capturing provincial capitals, causing an increase in the number of civilian casualties from the crossfire between the Taliban and ANSF.
In Syria, the second worst-affected country, there were 236 civilian casualties of explosive weapon use, across 73 recorded incidents (70 killed, 166 injured, and 77 casualties were reportedly children). Ground-launched weapons, such as artillery shelling, mortars, rockets, and grenades accounted for the majority of incidents and civilian casualties, at 51 of the 73 incidents and 86% (206) civilian casualties. There were 12 incidents of the use of IEDs and mines, causing 15 civilian casualties combined. There were 10 recorded incidents of the use of air-launched weapons, three by Russia, three by the US-led coalition, two by Israel, one by Turkey and one by Syria. All 11 civilian casualties of airstrikes were caused by Russian and Syrian airstrikes on populated areas in Idlib. 61% (126) of the civilian casualties caused by ground launched weapons took place in Idlib. 51 civilians in Idlib were killed or injured between the 15th and 17th of July by state rocket attacks on villages. 10 of the 51 civilian casualties were women and 18 were reportedly children. The highest casualty incident for civilians in July took place on 17 July when eight civilians, seven from one family, were killed, including four women and four children, and nine others injured, including two women and three children, in a state perpetrated rocket strike on a village in Jabal al-Zawiya. 57 civilians were injured or killed by Syrian state ground launched weapons in Jabal al-Zawiya in July. As in June, Aleppo and Idlib provinces remain the most dangerous areas for civilians, combined accounting for 75% (178) of the total civilian casualties (236). The number of civilian casualties in Syria in July has increased by 11%, and the proportion of civilian casualties to total casualties has increased notably, from 57% in June to 75% in July. The Syrian state was responsible for at least 29 incidents of explosive weapon use and 126 civilian casualties, of whom 45 were reportedly children, though this is likely an underestimation as explosive weapon attacks are often unclaimed by the perpetrators and can be difficult to determine.
Yemen was the third worst-affected country in regard to civilian casualties of explosive violence. There were seven incidents of explosive weapon use recorded, causing 150 casualties, 77% (115) of whom were civilians. 91 civilians were killed and 24 were injured. There were 35 armed-actor casualties. The number of civilian casualties in July has increased by 28% compared to June. These civilian casualties were attributed to the use of ground launched weapons, air launched weapons and landmines, specifically shelling, a missile and an airstrike. All incidents that caused civilian casualties took place in populated areas. The worst incident of explosive weapon use for civilian casualties in July caused 77% of the total civilian casualties in the month. On 3 July, Saudi shelling in Saada reportedly killed 12 civilians and injured as many as 80 others, as reported by Yemen’s Al-Masira news network. Saudi Arabia was responsible for three of the eight incidents of explosive weapon use in Yemen in July. Houthi rebels were responsible for 21 civilian casualties through the use of landmines and shelling. July has seen the highest level of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons in Yemen this year so far.
Iraq was the fourth worst-affected country for civilian casualties, and across 19 incidents of explosive weapons use in Iraq in July, there were 108 civilian casualties, 36 of whom were killed and 72 injured. There were 29 armed-actor casualties, 25 injured and 4 killed. As in June, IEDs accounted for the majority of incidents and civilian casualties. There were 16 incidents of IED use in July, all of which were in populated areas, and these accounted for all but one (107) of the civilian casualties in July. The worst incident for civilian casualties took place on 19 July in Sadr City, Baghdad, when an ISIS suicide bomber detonated his vest in the crowded Wahailat market on the eve of the Eid al-Adha festival, killing 35 civilians and injuring at least 60. This incident marked the highest death toll of any incident of explosive weapon use this year. The number of civilian casualties in July increased by 25% since June, while the number of armed-actor casualties increased by 2 casualties.
Somalia was the fifth worst-affected country for civilian casualties. There were four incidents of the use of explosive weapons in Somalia in July, causing 59 civilian casualties, 36 of whom were killed and 23 injured. There were two armed-actor casualties. All incidents of explosive weapon use involved IEDs, and two of the four incidents were suicide attacks. 58 of the 59 civilian deaths and injuries took place in populated areas. The worst incident for civilian casualties of explosive weapon use took place on 2 July when an al-Shabaab suicide bomber detonated his vest in a crowded tea shop near a hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 10 people and wounding at least 22 others. The incident with the second highest number of civilian casualties was also an al-Shabaab suicide bombing in Mogadishu that took place eight days later on 10 July and used a car bomb, killing nine civilians and injuring eight others. There were over five times more civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Somalia in July than in June.
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.
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