In December 2021, Action on Armed Violence recorded 1,408 deaths and injuries from 170 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 38% (529) of the deaths and injuries recorded.
When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 90% (496) of the casualties were civilians, compared to 4% in other areas.
Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 64% (339), while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 35% (185) of these civilian casualties in December 2021. Of the main launch method types of manufactured explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 35% of civilian casualties (187), air-launched explosive weapons for 22% (115), and remaining 7% of civilian casualties were caused by landmines (37).
At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 24 countries and territories in December 2021. The five most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Myanmar
In December 2021, there were 33 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Yemen. Across 27 of these incidents, 165 civilian casualties were recorded (including 17 children), 42 of whom were killed and 123 injured. Civilians accounted for 23% of the total 721 casualties in Yemen in December, as 548 armed-actors were also reportedly killed and eight injured.
When explosive weapon use was recorded in populated areas in Yemen, 97% (144) of those killed and injured were civilians compared to 4% (21) when casualties were recorded in non-populated areas. The majority of civilian casualties, 87%, occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 36% (59) of civilian casualties occurred in urban residential areas, 21% (35) occurred in villages, 14% (23) in a location in which the detonation of an explosive weapon affects multiple types of spaces within an urban environment, 8% (14) on roads, 8% in an unidentified location-type, 6% (10) in a market, 4% (6) in a public building and 3% (5) in an encampment.
The use of ground-launched explosive weapons caused 47% (78) of civilian casualties, specifically artillery shelling. Air-launched weapons caused 31% (51) of civilian casualties, specifically airstrikes. Landmines were the recorded weapon type in 19% (31) of civilian casualties.
Civilian casualties were recorded in eight governorates in Yemen, namely Saada (70 civilian casualties), Taiz (36), Hudaydah (16), Marib (15), Sanaa (9), Jawf (8), Mahwet (6), and Hajjah (5).
State actors were the recorded perpetrator of 73% (121) of civilian casualties, primarily Saudi Arabia (44) and the Saudi-led coalition (71). Non-state actors were the recorded perpetrators of 22% (36) of civilian casualties, and the perpetrator status in the case of 8 civilian casualties was recorded as ‘unknown’.
The number of civilian casualties in December 2021 is more than double the figures recorded in November. It is the second highest level of civilian casualties recorded in Yemen in 2021, after October, in which 200 civilians were killed. The number of armed-actor casualties reached its highest level of 2021 in December, with 556 casualties, 548 of whom were killed and 8 injured. Of these, 81% of armed-actor casualties occurred in Marib as clashes between the Houthis and Yemen state forces, including Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition, intensified.
In December 2021, there were 38 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Syria. Across 26 of these incidents, there were 113 recorded civilian casualties (including 33 children), 45 of whom were killed and 68 injured. Civilians accounted for 75% of the total 151 casualties. There were 38 armed-actor casualties recorded, 24 of whom were killed and 14 injured.
When explosive weapon use was recorded in populated areas in Syria, 92% (127) of those killed and injured were civilians. All but one civilian casualty took place in populated areas. Specifically, 36% (39) of civilian casualties took place in urban residential areas, 33% (38) in villages, 18% (20) on roads, 11% (12) on agricultural land, and the remaining 4% (4) of civilian casualties occurred at an encampment (2), a school (1), and a market (1).
Civilian casualties were recorded in eight governorates across Syria, namely Idlib (44 civilian casualties), Hasakah (31), Deir Ezzor (16), Aleppo (14), Daraa (4), Homs (2), Suweida (1), and Raqqa (1).
The use of ground-launched weapons caused 46% (52) of the total civilian casualties. Specifically, these weapons included shelling (31 civilian casualties), rockets (15) and grenades (6). Air-launched explosive weapons, specifically airstrikes, were the recorded cause of 38% (43) of civilian casualties. IEDs caused 15% (17) of civilian casualties, specifically car bombs (2) and non-specific IEDs (15). Landmines were the reported weapon type in the case of one civilian casualty.
State actors were reportedly responsible for 79% of civilian casualties, primarily Turkey (39 civilian casualties), Russia (25), Syria (13) and the US-led coalition (11). Non-state actors were reportedly responsible for 16% of civilian casualties, primarily the Islamic State (12 civilian casualties). The perpetrator status in the case of six civilian casualties was recorded as unknown.
The number of civilian casualties in Syria in December 2021 has increased by nearly 10% after a significant decrease of 49% in the month of November. Thus, civilian casualties in Syria remain among the lowest levels recorded in 2021. The number of total casualties in December (151) has fallen by 22% relative to November, as the lowest number of armed-actor casualties in 2021 was recorded this month (38). Idlib remains the most dangerous province in terms of the number of recorded civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons. Ground-launched weapons were again the cause of the highest proportion of civilian casualties in comparison to November 2021. December 2021 marks the sixth consecutive month in which State actors have caused over 60% of civilian casualties from explosive weapon use in Syria.
In December 2021, there were seven incidents of explosive weapon use in Pakistan, six of which caused a total of 45 civilian casualties, 11 of whom were killed and 34 injured. Civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties, as only three armed-actor casualties were recorded, one of whom was killed and two injured.
All civilian casualties from explosive weapon use occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 42% (19) occurred in schools, 38% in urban residential areas, 13% (6) in villages and 7% (3) on commercial premises.
The use of IEDs were the cause of 93% (42) of civilian casualties, the perpetrators for which were all non-state actors, though specific non-state group names were not identified. Ground-launched weapons, specifically grenades, were the cause of the remaining three civilian casualties and were caused by unknown actors.
Explosive weapon use and the resulting civilian casualties took place in two provinces in Pakistan in December 2021. The majority, 80% (36) of civilian casualties, occurred in Balochistan and the remaining 20% (9) occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use increased by 50% from November 2021. The violence remains concentrated in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and primarily involves the use of non-specific improvised explosive decices, roadside bombs, grenades and landmines by non-state actors or unknown perpetrators.
In December 2021, there were 20 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Iraq. Across nine of these incidents, 33 civilian casualties were recorded, 27 of whom were injured and six killed. Civilians accounted for 45% of the total 74 casualties, as there were also 41 armed-actor casualties recorded, including 22 deaths and 19 injuries.
All but one of the 33 civilian casualties occurred in populated areas, specifically 73% (24) of civilian casualties took place in a hospital, 21% (7) in villages, as well as one in an urban residential area, and one in agricultural land.
IEDs were the cause of the vast majority of civilian casualties, 31 of 33. Ground-launched weapons, specifically a mortar strike, caused one civilian injury, and an airstrike also caused one civilian injury.
Non-state actors were the reported perpetrator in 31 of the 33 civilian casualties. The Islamic State was specifically named as the perpetrator in the case of five civilian casualties. The perpetrator status in the case of one civilian casualty was unknown, and one civilian was injured in a state airstrike by Turkish armed forces.
The four provinces in which civilian casualties were recorded were Basra (24), Nineveh (6), Diyala (2), and Duhok (1).
Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Iraq in December 2021 were nearly double that of November, returning to similar levels recorded in the preceding months. Directly-emplaced weapons, specifically improvised explosive devices, remain the leading cause of civilian death and injury from explosive weapons in Iraq.
In December 2021, there were 19 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use, six of which caused a total of 29 civilian casualties, six of whom were injured and 23 killed. Civilians accounted for 17% of the total 172 casualties of explosive weapon use in Myanmar in December, as 128 armed actors were reportedly killed and 15 injured.
All but two of the civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. The majority of casualties occurred in villages (22), a public building (3) and an urban residential area (2).
The states in which civilian casualties occurred were the border of Sagaing and Magway (10), Magway (9), Karen (3), Mandalay (3), Sagaing (2), and Shan (2).
The majority of civilian casualties, 66% (19), were caused by airstrikes by Myanmar military forces. Ground-launched weapons were the cause of 28% (8) of civilian casualties, specifically artillery shelling (5) and grenades (3). The Myanmar military was the cause of 26 of 29 civilian casualties.
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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