Explosive violence in Afghanistan

Targeted shooting of mine clearers in Baghlan province, Afghanistan

The targeted shootings of mine clearers by unidentified gunmen in Baghlan province, Afghanistan, on Wednesday 9 June 2021 has left at least 10 mine clearance workers dead and over a dozen injured.

According to BBC reporting, masked gunmen broke into a compound housing Halo Trust mine clearers at 21:50 local time and began shooting. Police in Baghlan informed reporters that a survivor of the attack said the gunmen asked if any of the workers were from the Hazara minority community before opening fire.

Government spokesman Tariq Arian has blamed the Taliban for the shootings of the Halo Trust deminers, but the Taliban have firmly denied the allegation. Halo Trust CEO James Cowan told the BBC that “the local Taliban…came to our aid and scared the assailants off”.  

AOAV has recorded two incidents within the last two weeks that have also reportedly targeted ethnically Hazara groups and areas. One unclaimed attack involving multiple explosions on 1 June was particularly severe, when two IEDs targeted two busses in western Kabul. The first bus exploded near the home of a prominent Hazara leader, Mohammad Mohaqiq, in front of a Shiite mosque – most Hazaras are Shiite. The 1 June blasts caused at least 22 civilian casualties, ten of which were fatal.

Violence in Afghanistan has surged since the start of the US withdrawal of troops on 1 May 2021. In May, AOAV recorded 73 incidents of explosive violence, and 910 casualties, 76% of whom were civilians (693). For comparison, the first four months of this year, January through April 2021, saw a combined total of 1,650 casualties of explosive violence. This means that 55% of all casualties from explosive violence in the country in 2021 happened in May. This surge coincides with a breakdown in peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government. 

Baghlan province, where the shooting of the Halo Trust deminers took place, has also seen an increase in incidents of explosive violence since 1 May 2021. AOAV recorded 51 casualties from explosive weapons in the province in May, 38 being civilians. Casualties from that month alone account for 46% of the total casualties from explosive weapons in the province so far this year, January through May (114). One particularly severe incident on 31 May 2021 saw 32 casualties, 21 of whom were civilians, when a hijacked military vehicle filled with explosives was detonated outside the police headquarters in Baghlan-e-Markazi, killing four people and injuring 28 others.

Casualties resulting from landmines in Afghanistan are also on the rise. Landmines have caused the death or injury of 41 people across the country this year, January through May, 26 being civilians. These 26 civilians account for 36% of civilian casualties from landmines in Afghanistan in the last ten years, 2011-2020 (114).

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