In September 2021, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 1,303 deaths and injuries from 193 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 63% (822) of the deaths and injuries recorded.
When explosive violence was used in populated areas, 90% of all casualties were civilians, compared to 13% in other areas.
Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 76% of these civilian casualties in September 2021, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 23%. Of the main launch method types, ground-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 61% of civilian casualties (503), air-launched explosive weapons for 11% (94), and IEDs for 23% (192). The remaining 4% of civilian casualties were caused by landmines (31). 1% of recorded incident had an ‘unclear’ explosive weapon type.
At least one death or injury from explosive violence was recorded in 25 countries and territories last month. The five worst impacted countries were Syria, Ecuador, Burundi, Yemen and Nigeria – in terms of civilian casualties.
Syria was the country worst impacted by explosive weapons in September, with 77 recorded incidents and 213 civilian casualties. Civilians accounted for 61% (213) of all casualties (347), including 63 deaths and 150 injuries. Of these, 58 were reportedly women and 19 children. The vast majority of civilian casualties, 96% (207), occurred in populated areas, such as urban residential locations (50%) and villages (22%). The use of ground-launched weapons, specifically artillery shelling, rockets and grenades, caused the majority of civilian death and injury, resulting in 66% (140) of civilian casualties, including 47 deaths and 93 injuries, across 31 incidents. IEDs, car bombs and landmines, caused 43% (49) of civilian casualties, including eight deaths and 27 injuries, across seven incidents. The average number of civilian casualties per incident involving directly-emplaced weapons (7) was higher than that of ground-launched weapons (4) in Syria in September 2021. Air-launched weapons, specifically airstrikes, accounted for 11% (24) of civilian casualties, including eight deaths and 16 injuries, across nine incidents. All nine airstrikes that caused civilian casualties took place in populated areas and were perpetrated by state actors, specifically Russia and Turkey. All Russian airstrikes were located in Idlib province and caused 19 civilian casualties, 11 of whom were children.
State actors were responsible for 69% (146) of civilian casualties in Syria in September, and non-state actors were responsible for 16% (53). Syrian regime forces were responsible for 82% (120) of the civilian casualties caused by state actors.
Overall, civilian casualties from explosive weapon use in Syria have declined slightly from August to September 2021, with a 3% reduction in the number of civilian casualties and 14% fewer civilian fatalities. However, there was a significant increase in the concentration of civilian casualties and incidents of explosive weapon use in Idlib province, Syria. It was the most dangerous province for civilians this month, accounting for 55% (118) of all civilian casualties and 44% (34) of all incidents of explosive weapon use in Syria. This was followed by Aleppo province, where 24% (51) of civilian casualties occured, and 21% (16) of incidents. In Aleppo, civilian casualties decreased by 35% from August to September, and in Daraa, the second worst-affected province for civilian casualties in August 2021, civilian casualties dropped by 83%, from 42 to 7.
Ecuador is among the top five worst-affected countries in terms of civilian casualties in September, owing to one incident on 28 September. 197 civilians were killed and injured by explosive weapons, specifically grenades and IEDs, and firearms and improvised weapons in a riot that took place in a prison in Guayaqil, Guayas. Of these casualties, 118 were killed and 79 injured.
In Burundi, across three incidents, AOAV recorded a total of 80 casualties from explosive weapon use, all of whom were civilians. Eleven people were killed and 69 injured in three separate attacks, all involving the use of grenades. On 20 September, at least five people were killed and 50 injured in twin-grenade attacks on a bus station and market in Bujumbura, Burundi. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. This incident was the third grenade attack in the country in September. The day before, on Sunday 19 September, two civilians were killed and 15 injured in Burundi’s capital city, Gitega, when a grenade was thrown into a bar where politicians were gathered. The only other recorded incident of explosive weapon use in Burundi in 2021 took place in May, when two civilians were killed by a grenade attack at a bus station, again in Bujumbura.
In Yemen, there were 11 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in September, nine of which caused 70 civilian casualties. Civilians accounted for 88% (70) of the total recorded casualties (80), including 21 fatalities and 49 injuries. Seven of the nine incidents that caused civilian casualties were located in populated areas, primarily villages, urban residential areas, and public gatherings. Explosive weapon use by non-state actors, primarily Houthis, caused 50 civilian casualties, including 10 fatalities and 40 injuries. Twenty civilian casualties were attributed to state actors, specifically the Saudi-led coalition. Ground-launched weapons, specifically missiles and artillery shelling, accounted for the majority of incidents and casualties in Yemen in September 2021. The use of ground-launched weapons caused 63% (44) of all civilian casualties, including 62% (13) of all fatalities this month. Landmines caused the second highest proportion of civilian casualties, 27% (19), and airstrikes caused the remaining 10% (7) of civilian casualties.
The number of civilian casualties resulting from the use of explosive weapons in Yemen in September rose significantly, from 13 in August 2021, but remains lower than the 2021 high point of 115 civilian casualties in July 2021.
In Nigeria, there were four incidents of explosive weapons use, three of which resulted in 56 civilian casualties, including 11 fatalities and 69 injuries. Of these, 52 civilian casualties were caused by airstrikes carried out by the Nigerian Airforce, reportedly targeting armed groups. September was the second highest month for civilian casualties in Nigeria in 2021, and the highest month this year for civilian casualties caused by state-actor use of explosive violence.
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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