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A Decade of Mass Civilian Casualty Events from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)

INTRODUCTION (Download the report here.)

On 3 March 2013, at the close of the weekend, with people enjoying the spring air of a Pakistani late afternoon, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a crowded mosque and ruptured the lives of untold numbers. 

The attack, on a Shiite site of worship in Karachi, carried out by a zealot from the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, killed 48 civilians and injured 149 more. The car bomb was targeting the worshippers at the mosque’s evening prayers in Pakistan’s Sindh province, Women and children were among the dead and the dying. The weather, at 32 degrees Celsius, was perfect for a spring walk. 

A March attack; a mosque targeted; a balmy evening full of civilians; a weekend ruptured by violence; a suicide bomb out of of nowhere. These features make this March 2013 strike not just terrible, but terribly predictable. For all of these factors – weather, time, location, date, the target, and the perpetrator – are salient features of the 100 most injurious improvised explosive device (IED) attacks around the world.

Such are the key findings of this report where we have sought to chart, over the past decade, how IEDs have continued to pose a substantial lethal threat to civilians worldwide. 

Even though the lives devastated by the attack on Karachi were unique – and their family’s lives too – the attack itself was just one of so many that have sparked around the world in the last ten years. Indeed, between 2013 and 2022, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded some 11,099 IED attacks worldwide, as reported in English language media. These strikes were across some 93 countries and resulted in the death or injury of 114,478 civilians (33,029 killed, 81,449 injured). Such harm represents about half – 47% – of the 245,841 civilian casualties from explosive weapons (both manufactured and IED weapons) as recorded globally by AOAV across a decade. 

To illustrate the disproportionate levels of harm caused by IEDs, despite almost killing and injuring half of all civilians reported harmed by explosive weapons, IEDs themselves represented only 36% of the 30,433 incidents of all explosive weapons incidents involving reported civilian casualties between 2013 and 2022. In comparison, air-launched explosive weapons caused 25% (62,235) of civilian casualties over that time, and ground-launched weapons caused 23% (56,447).

In order to develop a better understanding of the trends associated with the most injurious attacks, AOAV conducted a comprehensive study examining the top 100 events resulting in civilian casualties from IEDs worldwide between 2013 and 2022. The aim of this study is to support the international community in gaining insight into the themes, patterns, and motivations which underlie these events.

Countries impacted by the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

AOAV considered several key factors when analysing these 100 civilian casualty-causing events, including the geographic location of incidents (country; region; and type of location, urban, rural, conflict zone, peaceful area), to identify patterns in geographic distribution; the identity of perpetrators, to develop an insight into the political or ideological motivations behind these events; the targets of the attacks; the timing of attacks, to reveal any patterns such as whether attacks occur more frequently during certain times or on certain days; event specifics, such as the type of IED used, method of delivery (e.g. vehicle-borne, suicide bomber, etc.), number of casualties, and severity of harm caused; the sociopolitical climate during the attack, to understand the context in which the attacks occurred; and the countermeasures in place at the time. By considering these aspects, the report aims to identify patterns and trends in these events and gain insights into the motivations behind them.

Overall, AOAV’s findings suggest that mass casualty IED attacks are predominantly suicide bombings, targeting places of worship in the context of Islamist sectarian violence. Such attacks are most likely to take place between Friday and Sunday, with more civilians harmed when the temperature is between 26 and 40 degrees Celsius. For a complete list of the 100 incidents, refer to Annex A.

Based on these conclusions, that March attack in Karachi is not only deeply troubling for its direct impact, but can be held up as an example of how so many have suffered – the world over – from the IEDs’ terrible harm since 2013.

KEY FINDINGS

100 most injurious IED attacks:
• 24,024 civilian casualties (6,935 killed, 17,089 injured) in 20 countries.
• At least 469 children among the casualties.

Suicide bombings:
• 79 of 100 attacks were suicide bombings.
• Suicide attacks accounted for 79% of total civilian harm.
• At least 370 children killed or injured in suicide attacks.
• Over half took place on a weekend.

Countries
Afghanistan:
• Most affected, with 22 major IED incidents.
• 5,068 casualties (1,296 killed, 3,772 injured).
Iraq:
• 15 major incidents.
• 3,046 casualties (1,039 killed, 2,007 injured).
Pakistan:
• 13 major incidents.
• 3,180 casualties (920 killed, 2,260 injured).
Syria:
• 13 major incidents.
• 2,702 casualties (904 killed, 1,799 injured).

Child casualties
• Minimum of 469 children affected across all attacks.
• At least 370 child casualties in suicide bombings.

Action on Armed Violence would like to thank the French government for their assistance and support in the production of this report. Download the report here.

CONTEXT

Conflict context  

The 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade were recorded across three broad conflict contexts, based on the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights’ Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) database:

  • attacks within the context of an ongoing non-international armed conflict (NIAC);
  • sporadic terror attacks in a general context of economic or political insecurity and the presence of armed groups; and 
  • attacks during peacetime while the target country was involved in a conflict abroad. 

For a detailed breakdown of the conflict situation and patterns of explosive violence in the most affected countries within each context, please see Annex B.

Conflict contexts of the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Non-international armed conflicts 

Seventy-three of the incidents were reported in contexts where an NIAC was taking place in the target country, killing and injuring 17,310 civilians across nine countries. A further 13 attacks took place in Syria, where the government is involved in an NIAC with the Islamic State (IS) and opposition groups, as well as an international armed conflict (IAC) with the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (henceforth, Global Coalition) and with Türkiye. These attacks resulted in 2,703 civilian casualties.

Consequently, 86 of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade occurred within the context of an ongoing NIAC, as were 83% (20,013) of the civilian casualties caused by these attacks.

Countries impacted by attacks in the context of an ongoing NIAC, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Afghanistan225067
Pakistan133180
Iraq153046
Syria132703
Somalia51837
Türkiye61537
Nigeria71435
Yemen2701
Egypt2362
Thailand1145
Instability

Ten of the 100 most injurious IED attacks from 2013 to 2022 were reported across six countries which have faced sporadic insurgencies and attacks over the past decade, associated with the presence of armed groups; spillover from other armed conflicts; economic instability; and political instability – all the while not being actively involved in an NIAC.  These attacks resulted in 12% (2,962) of the civilian casualties caused by these attacks.

Countries impacted by attacks in the context of chronic instability, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Lebanon51449
Sri Lanka1753
Chad1230
Kuwait1227
Cameroon1162
Saudi Arabia1141
Targeting the ‘Global Coalition’

Four of the attacks took place in four countries where the target territory was at peace, but the country itself was involved in an IAC abroad, specifically the US, the UK, France, and Belgium. Each of these countries is involved in the Global Coalition and has carried out airstrikes in Syria and in Iraq. These four attacks caused 4% (1,049) of civilian casualties from the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade.

Countries impacted by attacks in the context of the Global Coalition, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Belgium1372
US1267
UK1222
France1188

Sociopolitical context

AOAV was able to identify three broad sociopolitical contexts in which the attacks studied here took place, although these are to a large extent overlapping:

  • Islamist insurgencies;
  • sectarian violence; and 
  • anti-government violence. 

The ten attacks associated with the Syrian civil war – both in Syria itself and in Lebanon (4 incidents), Türkiye (2), and in Pakistan (1) – are also classified as anti-government-linked violence. 

Notably, Islamist insurgencies have a strong sectarian component, however for this analysis AOAV classified attacks targeting specific denominations, such as attacks on mosques or on particular holidays, as sectarian attacks – even if they happened within the broader context of a group’s insurgency against the government. For a detailed breakdown of the most active armed actors in each context, see Annex C.

Sociopolitical contexts of the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Islamist insurgencies  

Forty-nine of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade are associated with Islamist insurgencies, and these have resulted in 11,791 civilian casualties across 14 countries (49% of all civilians harmed in these attacks). Thirty-one of the 49 attacks, or 63%, are attributed to IS and their affiliates globally, killing and injuring 7,865 civilians – 67% of all 11,791 civilian casualties of these attacks.

Seven are attributed to the Taliban (1,557 civilian casualties), four to Al-Shabaab (1,009), two to Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (360), one to Al-Qaeda (219), and one to Boko Haram (216).

Countries impacted by attacks in the context of an ongoing Islamist insurgency, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Afghanistan122636
Iraq102141
Syria71528
Somalia41009
Türkiye2882
Sri Lanka1753
Pakistan3698
Nigeria3551
Belgium1372
Egypt2362
Chad1230
UK1222
Yemen1219
France1188

Perpetrators of attacks in the context of an ongoing Islamist insurgency, 2013–2022

Armed actorIncidentsCivilian casualties
IS317865
Taliban71557
Al-Shabaab41009
Unknown actor3565
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar2360
Al-Qaeda: Yemen1219
Boko Haram1216
Sectarian violence

Thirty attacks were reported in a context of sectarian tension, resulting in 6,690 civilian casualties across ten countries, 29% of all civilian casualties of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade. Of those, 40% (12) were specifically relating to Sunni–Shiite tensions (2,637 civilian casualties), while two were explicitly associated with anti-Christian sentiment (661 civilian casualties), and two with anti-Kurdish sentiment (450 civilian casualties). 

Forty-three percent (13) of the incidents were attributed to IS and IS affiliates across eight countries. These attacks caused 2,875 civilian casualties, 43% of all 6,690 civilians harmed in sectarian attacks. Three were reportedly perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (717 civilian casualties), one by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (436), one by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (225), and one by Boko Haram (187). 

Countries impacted by attacks in the context of sectarian violence, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Pakistan82011
Afghanistan71393
Nigeria4884
Iraq4739
Yemen1482
Syria2386
Lebanon1282
Kuwait1227
Thailand1145
Saudi Arabia1141

Perpetrators of attacks in the context of sectarian violence, 2013–2022

Armed actorIncidentsCivilian casualties
IS132875
Unknown 112250
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi3717
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar1436
TTP1225
Boko Haram1187
Anti-government violence

Twenty-one of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade took place in the context of anti-government violence, resulting in 5,543 civilian casualties across nine countries. These attacks caused 23% of all 24,024 civilian casualties of these attacks 

The majority, 57% (12), of these incidents are attributed to unknown actors. However, two were perpetrated by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) (326 civilian casualties), and Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Lebanon (308), while one each was attributed to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (328), Aisha Umm al-Mumineen, also known as Brigades of Aisha (312), Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) (174), the United Baloch Army (UBA) (143), and an individual actor (267). 

Countries impacted by attacks in the context of anti-government violence, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Lebanon41167
Afghanistan31038
Somalia1828
Syria4789
Türkiye4655
Pakistan2471
US1267
Iraq1166
Cameroon1162

Perpetrators of attacks in the context of anti-government violence, 2013–2022

Armed actorIncidentsCivilian casualties
Unknown 123686
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi1328
TAK2325
Brigades of Aisha1312
Al-Qaeda: Lebanon (Abdullah Azzam Brigades) 2308
Individual1267
HTS1174
UBA1143

PERPETRATORS

AOAV identified 12 known non-state actors among the perpetrators of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade. Overall, 72% (17,256) of the civilian casualties caused by these attacks were attributed to known actors, while one incident by a ‘lone wolf’ actor caused 267 civilian casualties (3 killed, 264 injured), and 26 attacks by unknown actors resulted in 6,501 civilian casualties. 

Forty-four attacks were perpetrated by IS and IS affiliates across 14 countries, seven were attributed to the Taliban, four to Al-Shabaab, and four to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Three were carried out by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Al-Qaeda (two in Lebanon and one in Yemen) respectively, two by Boko Haram and the TAK respectively, and one by the Brigades of Aisha, the TTP, HTS, the UBA, and a lone actor respectively.

IS and IS affiliates caused the majority of the civilian casualties of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade, killing and injuring 10,740 civilians, while the Taliban’s attacks harmed 1,557 civilians. The Al-Shabaab attacks caused 1,009 civilian casualties, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi caused 1,045.

Perpetrators of the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Armed actorIncidentsCivilian casualties
IS4410740
Unknown266501
Taliban71557
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi41045
Al-Shabaab41009
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar3796
Boko Haram2403
TAK2325
Brigades of Aisha1312
Al-Qaeda: Lebanon (Abdullah Azzam Brigades) 2308
Individual1267
TTP1225
Al-Qaeda: Yemen1219
HTS1174
UBA1143

Islamic State

Of the 100 incidents analysed in this report, 44 have been attributed to IS and IS affiliates across 14 countries. These attacks resulted in 10,740 civilian casualties.

Countries impacted by the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

IS and IS affiliates responsible for the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

IS and affiliatesIncidentsCivilian casualties
ISIS214854
ISIS: Afghanistan91830
ISIS: Sri Lanka1753
ISIS: Pakistan3747
ISIS: Yemen1482
ISIS: Belgium1372
ISIS: Egypt2362
ISIS: Lebanon1282
ISIS: Türkiye1280
ISIS: Kuwait1227
ISIS: UK1222
ISIS: France1188
ISIS: Saudi Arabia1141

The IS attack which caused the most injuries, and the most overall casualties, took place on 21 April 2019, when 253 civilians were killed and 500 injured in suicide attacks across multiple Sri Lankan regions in the morning. These attacks were reportedly targeting civilians.

The attack which caused the most fatalities took place on 3 July 2016, when 324 civilians were killed and 200 injured in a suicide car bombing of a commercial area in Baghdad’s Karada neighbourhood. The attack, which took place in the morning, was reportedly targeting civilians.

2015 and 2016 were the years in which the majority of the 44 attacks were perpetrated, with 25% (11) taking place in 2015 and 30% (13) in 2016. These are significantly higher levels than the remaining years, and account for 59% (6,149) of the total civilian casualties from the 44 attacks attributed to IS. 

Yearly distribution of the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

YearIncidentsCivilian casualties
20132305
20142349
2015113015
2016133134
20173629
20184972
20192998
20201165
20214772
20222401

Twenty-three percent (10) of the attacks took place on a Friday, and on a Sunday respectively, compared to 14% (6) on a Saturday and Thursday, 11% (5) on a Monday and Tuesday, and 7% (3) on a Wednesday. While the timing of 21 of the attacks was not reported, 18% (8) reportedly took place in the evening and in the morning, 14% (6) in the afternoon, and one at night. Attacks occurring in the morning account for 8% of all 44 IS attacks, but 28% of their civilian casualties.

Days of the week impacted by the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

Day of the weekIncidentsCivilian casualties
Sunday102757
Friday102423
Saturday61693
Thursday61341
Tuesday4955
Monday5897
Wednesday3674

Timings of the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

Event timeIncidentsCivilian casualties
Not reported214462
Morning (0500–1200)83045
Evening (1800–2300)81949
Afternoon (1200–1800)61146
Night (2300–0500)1138

Fifty-five percent (24) of IS attacks were reportedly targeting civilians, killing and injuring 62% (6,608) of the 10,740 civilians harmed by IS, while 5% (2) were reported to be targeting armed state actors. One was reported as targeting unarmed state actors, and one was targeting armed groups. The target of the remaining 16 attacks was not reported.

Intended targets of the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

Intended targetIncidentsCivilian casualties
Civilians246608
Not reported163219
State (armed)2356
State (unarmed)1338
Armed groups1219

Most of the IS attacks – 25% (11) – took place in Iraq, and 20% (9) in Syria and in Afghanistan. These three countries account for 57% (6,082) of all 10,740 civilian casualties of IS.

Countries impacted by the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Iraq112338
Syria91914
Afghanistan91830
Türkiye2882
Sri Lanka1753
Pakistan3747
Yemen1482
Belgium1372
Egypt2362
Lebanon1282
Kuwait1227
UK1222
France1188
Saudi Arabia1141

Twenty-five percent (11) of the attacks attributed to IS occurred in places of worship, where 21% (2,280) of the 10,740 civilians were killed and injured. All the IS attacks in places of worship were reported as suicide attacks. Sixteen percent (7) of the IS attacks occurred in urban areas, killing and injuring 17% (1,888) of civilians, and 14% (6) of the attacks took place in markets, killing and injuring 1,118 civilians. While only 11% (5) of the attacks occurred at public gatherings, these caused 16% (1,727) of civilian casualties.

Locations targeted in the most injurious IS IED attacks, 2013–2022

LocationIncidentsCivilian casualties
Place of worship112280
Urban areas71888
Public gathering51727
Transport related infrastructure51329
Market61118
Commercial premises2806
Public building3500
Entertainment2410
Road1240
Public transport1224

Overall, 39 of the attacks attributed to IS were reported as suicide attacks, or 89%, and they resulted in 91% (9,821) of the civilian casualties attributed to IS. The majority, 28% (11), of suicide attacks occurred in places of worship.

Locations targeted in the most injurious IS suicide IED attacks, 2013–2022

LocationIncidentsCivilian casualties
Place of worship112280
Public gathering51727
Urban areas61721
Transport related infrastructure41183
Market5976
Commercial premises2806
Public building3500
Entertainment2410
No information1218
Urban residential1138

The Taliban

Seven of the attacks, which killed and injured 1,557 civilians, are attributed to the Taliban. All took place in Afghanistan.

The Taliban attack which caused the most injuries and fatalities took place on 27 January 2018, when 103 civilians were killed and 235 injured in a suicide bombing utilising an ambulance in central Kabul. The attack was reportedly targeting armed state actors. The timing of the attack was not reported.

Taliban attacks among the 100 most injurious within the past decade span between 2014 and 2019, although none happened in 2015. Twenty-nine percent (2) of the attacks took place on a Tuesday, with one each occurring on the remaining days of the week. While the timing of four of the attacks was not reported, the remaining 43% (3) reportedly took place in the morning, killing and injuring 702 civilians.

Yearly distribution of the most injurious Taliban IED attacks, 2013–2022

YearIncidentsCivilian casualties
20141132
20162552
20171190
20181338
20192345

Days of the week impacted by the most injurious Taliban IED attacks, 2013–2022

Day of the weekIncidentsCivilian casualties
Tuesday2601
Saturday1338
Sunday1186
Wednesday1159
Monday1141
Thursday1132

Seventy-one percent (5) of the attacks were reportedly targeting armed state actors, causing 1,212 civilian casualties, and the target was not reported for the remaining two attacks, in which 345 civilians were killed and injured. 

Forty-three percent (3) of the attacks took place in town centres, killing and injuring 738 civilians, while three attacks on police stations killed and injured 481 civilians. One attack on a public building resulted in 338 civilian casualties.

Eighty-six percent (6) of the seven attacks were suicide attacks, during which 1,425 civilians were killed and injured (92% of civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban). Three Taliban suicide attacks took place in town centres (738 civilian casualties), two in police stations (349 civilian casualties), and one in a public building (103 civilians killed, 235 injured).

Al-Shabaab

Four of the attacks are attributed to Al-Shabaab, all occurring in Somalia. They resulted in 1,009 civilian casualties. 

The attack by Al-Shabaab which caused the most fatalities and injuries took place on 29 October 2022, when 121 civilians were killed and 333 injured in twin car bomb explosions at the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu’s Zobe area. It was unclear whether this attack, which reportedly happened in the afternoon, was a suicide bombing.

One of the Al-Shabaab attacks took place in 2018, one in 2019, and two in 2022. Half of the attacks took place on a Saturday, with one each occurring on a Wednesday, and Friday. While the timing of three of the attacks was not reported (555 civilian casualties), one attack reportedly took place in the afternoon, killing and injuring 454 civilians.

The target of the attack was not reported for any of the four Al-Shabaab incidents.

Two of the attacks took place in public buildings, killing and injuring 38% (384) of the civilians harmed by Al-Shabaab, while one attack which impacted multiple urban locations caused 45% (454) of the 1,009 civilian casualties. One attack on a hotel caused 17% (171) of civilian casualties.

Seventy-five percent (3) of the four attacks were suicide attacks, during which 55% (555) of civilian casualties of Al-Shabaab were killed and injured. Both attacks on public buildings were reported as suicide attacks, as well as the attack on the hotel. 

IED TYPE

AOAV’s explosive violence monitor collects data on the anatomy of explosive weapon use resulting in casualties: data is collected on the the type of explosive weapon – in the case of IEDs, whether they are roadside bombs, car bombs, or more generally non-specific IEDs – and the detonation method (suicide attack, remote-detonated, or victim-activated).

The attack which caused the most civilian fatalities occurred on 14 October 2017, in which 512 civilians were killed and 316 injured when a truck bomb exploded in a commercial premise in Mogadishu. This attack, perpetrated by unknown non-state actors, was reported as a suicide attack. This was also the attack which caused the most overall civilian casualties (fatalities and injuries). The target and timing of the attack were not reported.

The attack which injured the most civilians took place on 21 April 2019, when 253 civilians were killed and 500 injured in a morning suicide attack by IS affiliates across multiple urban areas in Sri Lanka, with the explosive weapon reported as non-specific IEDs. The attack was reported as targeting civilians.

In over half of the incidents (52), the type of IED was recorded as non-specific. These attacks attributed to non-specific IEDs killed and injured 50% (12,127) of the 24,024 civilians. 37 of the incidents were reportedly carried out using car bombs, killing and injuring 41% (9,954) of civilians. The remaining 11 attacks were perpetrated using multiple explosive weapons, resulting in 8% (1,943) of civilian casualties. None of the most injurious iED attacks over the past decade were perpetrated with roadside bombs. 

IEDs used in the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

IED typeIncidentsCivilian casualties
Non-specific IED5212127
Car bomb379954
Multiple explosive weapons111943

Suicide attacks

Seventy-nine of the 100 most injurious IED attacks were reported as suicide attacks, killing and injuring 79% (18,955) of all civilians harmed by the attacks. 

Fifty-four percent (43) of the attacks reported as suicide attacks were carried out using non-specific IEDs, killing and injuring 54% (10,233) of the 18,955 civilians. Thirty-four percent (27) were perpetrated wth a car bomb, resulting in 37% (7,078) of the civilian casualties of suicide bombings, and 11% (9) with combinations of improvised explosive devices (9% or 1,644 of the civilian casualties of suicide bombings). When suicide attacks are reported with non-specific IEDs, this generally refers to the use of suicide vests. None of the attacks among the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade were reported to involve remote detonation or victim-activated devices.

In 43% (34) of suicide attacks, the intended target was not reported (7,706 civilian casualties), but 41% (32) of the attacks reported as suicide attacks were targeting civilians (8,401 civilian casualties). The second-most affected targets were armed state actors, who accounted for 9% (7) of the incidents (1,602 civilian casualties), followed by unarmed state actors, who were targeted in 5% (4) of incidents (888 civilian casualties).

Intended target of the most injurious suicide attacks, 2013–2022

Intended targetIncidentsCivilian casualties
Civilians328401
Not reported347706
State (armed)71602
State (unarmed)4888
Armed groups1219
International actor (unarmed)1139

The majority – 20% (16) – of the attacks reported as suicide attacks took place in places of worship (3,415 civilian casualties), followed by 15% (12) in urban areas (2,738 civilian casualties), and 14% (11) in public buildings (2,238 civilian casualties). 

Locations of the most injurious suicide attacks, 2013–2022

LocationIncidentsCivilian casualties
Place of worship163415
Multiple (urban)102436
Public gathering82290
Public building112238
Commercial premises31634
Market81568
Transport related infrastructure51345
Entertainment41009
Town centre3738
Road2723
Police station2349
School2329
Urban residential2302
No information1218
Hospital1190
Hotel1171

Of the 79 suicide attacks amongst the 100 most injurious IEDs attacks over the past decade, 18% (14) took place on a Friday, a Saturday, and on a Sunday respectively, compared to 14% (11) on a Tuesday, 11% (9) on a Monday and Wednesday, and 10% (8) on a Thursday. That means 53% of the 79 suicide attacks took place on the weekend. 

For 41 of the 79 suicide attacks, the timing of the attack was not reported, but 19% (15) of them took place in the morning and 16% (13) in the evening, compared to 11% (9) in the afternoon and one at night. 

Days of the week on which the most injurious suicide attacks occurred, 2013–2022

Day of the weekIncidentsCivilian casualties
Saturday143968
Sunday143767
Friday143371
Tuesday112414
Wednesday92027
Thursday81850
Monday91558

Timing of the most injurious suicide attacks, 2013–2022

Time of dayIncidentsCivilian casualties
Not reported419390
Morning (0500–1200)154949
Evening (1800–2300)132890
Afternoon (1200–1800)91588
Night (2300–0500)1138

Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are the worst-impacted countries: 24% (19) of the suicide attacks took place in Afghanistan (4,342 civilian casualties), 15% (12) in Iraq (2,574), and 14% (11) in Syria (2,317).

Countries affected by the most injurious suicide attacks, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Afghanistan194342
Iraq122574
Syria112317
Pakistan92189
Somalia41383
Nigeria61219
Türkiye41207
Sri Lanka1753
Yemen2701
Lebanon3590
Belgium1372
Chad1230
Kuwait1227
UK1222
France1188
Cameroon1162
Saudi Arabia1141
Egypt1138

INTENDED TARGET

The 100 incidents analysed in this report were reported as targeting civilians (41 incidents), armed state actors (9), unarmed state actors (4), armed groups (2), and unarmed international actors (1). In the remaining 43 incidents, the target was not reported. Attacks targeting civilians caused 43% (10,387) of the 24,024 civilians harmed in these attacks.

Intended targets of the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Intended targetIncidentsCivilian casualties
Civilians4110387
Not reported4310082
State (armed)91997
State (unarmed)4888
Armed groups2531
International actor (unarmed)1139

The attacks targeting civilians are concentrated on weekends, with 22% (9) occurring on Saturdays, and 20% (8) on Sundays and Fridays respectively, compared to 15% (6) on Mondays, 12% (5) on Thursdays, 10% (4) on Tuesdays, and one on a Wednesday. Overall, attacks over the weekend caused 66% (6,845) of the 10,387 civilians harmed in these attacks. 

While the timing of 44% (18) of the attacks targeting civilians was not reported, 27% (11) of the attacks took place in the evening, resulting in 2,635 civilian casualties, and 17% (7) of attacks – which reportedly occurred in the morning – caused 2,834 civilian casualties. Attacks targeting civilians which took place in the morning caused 27% of the 10,387 civilians harmed in these attacks, and witnessed a much higher rate of harm than the attacks which took place in the evening (404.9 civilians harmed per incident, compared to 239.5). Four attacks took place in the afternoon, resulting in 723 civilians harmed, and one at night, killing 54 civilians and injuring 90.

Days of the week impacted by the most injurious IED attacks targeting civilians, 2013–2022

Day of the weekIncidentsCivilian casualties
Sunday82626
Saturday92233
Friday81986
Monday61243
Thursday51122
Tuesday41034
Wednesday1143

Timings of the most injurious IED attacks targeting civilians, 2013–2022

Event TimeIncidentsCivilian Casualties
Not reported184051
Morning (0500-1200)72834
Evening (1800-2300)112635
Afternoon (1200-1800)4723
Night (2300-0500)1144

IED attacks targeting civilians were reported across 14 countries, with the majority, 20% (8), taking place in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, each accounting for 18% of civilian casualties from these attacks.

Countries impacted by the most injurious IED attacks targeting civilians, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Pakistan81890
Afghanistan81829
Iraq61360
Syria61089
Türkiye31026
Sri Lanka1753
Yemen1482
Nigeria2403
Belgium1372
Lebanon1282
US1267
Egypt1224
UK1222
France1188

Over half of the attacks targeting civilians, 59% (24), were attributed to IS and IS affiliates, killing and injuring 64% (6,608) of civilians harmed in these attacks. Two were reportedly perpetrated by Boko Haram (403 civilian casualties), Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (626), and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (520) respectively, while one attack was attributed to HTS, the TTP (225), and the UBA (143) respectively. 

Perpetrators of the most injurious IED attacks targeting civilians, 2013–2022

Armed actorIncidentsCivilian casualties
IS246608
Unknown actors71421
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar2626
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi2520
Boko Haram2403
Individual1267
TTP1225
HTS1174
UBA1143

Thirty-two of the 41 attacks targeting civilians – or 78% – were reported as suicide attacks, resulting in 81% (8,401) of the 10,387 civilian casualties. 

Perpetrators of the most injurious suicide IED attacks targeting civilians, 2013–2022

Armed actorIncidentsCivilian casualties
IS226242
Unknown actors5947
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar2626
TTP1225
Boko Haram1187
HTS1174

COUNTRIES 

The 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade span across 20 countries, with 22 occurring in Afghanistan, 15 in Iraq, and 13 in Pakistan and Syria respectively. Nigeria is the fifth most affected country in terms of the number of incidents, with seven of the incidents reported there.

Countries impacted by the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Countries impacted by the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Afghanistan225067
Pakistan133180
Iraq153046
Syria132703
Somalia51837
Türkiye61537
Lebanon51449
Nigeria71435
Sri Lanka1753
Yemen2701
Belgium1372
Egypt2362
US1267
Chad1230
Kuwait1227
UK1222
France1188
Cameroon1162
Thailand1145
Saudi Arabia1141

In Afghanistan, the 22 incidents resulted in 5,067 civilian casualties (1,295 killed, 3,772 injured) across six provinces. Kabul was the most impacted, both in terms of civilian casualties and number of incidents which took place there: the province accounts for 73% (3,706) of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and 64% (14) of the 22 incidents.

Afghan provinces impacted by the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

RegionIncidentsCivilian casualties
Kabul143706
Nangarhar3557
Ghazni2318
Paktia1190
Kunduz1150
Kandahar1146

The most injurious incident in Afghanistan occurred on 31 May 2017, when 150 civilians were killed and 392 injured in a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, during the morning rush hour. 

In Pakistan, the 13 incidents resulted in 3,180 civilian casualties (920 killed, 2,260 injured) across five provinces. Balochistan was the most impacted province, both in terms of civilian harm and the number of incidents: 38% (1,200) of civilian casualties were reported there, and 38% (5) of incidents.

Pakistani provinces impacted by the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

RegionIncidentsCivilian casualties
Balochistan51200
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa41034
Punjab2606
Sindh1197
Islamabad1143

The most injurious incident in Pakistan occurred on 27 March 2016, when 74 civilians were killed and 362 injured during a suicide attack by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, targeting Christians in a park in Lahore, Punjab. Twenty-four children were among the casualties.

In Iraq, the 15 incidents resulted in 3,046 civilian casualties (1,039 killed, 2,007 injured), across six governorates. Baghdad was the most impacted both in terms of civilian casualties and the number of incidents: 55% (1,688) of civilian casualties in Iraq were killed and injured in the eight incidents reported there, or 53% of all 15 incidents in the country. 

Iraqi governorates impacted by the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

RegionIncidentsCivilian casualties
Baghdad81688
Diyala2425
Kirkuk2385
Babylon1197
Salahuddin1184
Dhiqar1167

The most injurious incident in Iraq occurred on 3 July 2016, when 324 civilians were killed and 200 injured in an IS car bomb explosion in a commercial zone of Baghdad’s Karada neighbourhood. It was also the deadliest of the incidents reported in Iraq.

LOCATIONS

The IED attacks analysed in this study took place across 15 location types identified by AOAV, notably commercial premises, entertainment venues, hospitals, hotels, markets, residential areas, places of worship, police stations, public buildings, public gatherings, public transport, roads, schools, town centres, and transport-related infrastructure. 

The most affected locations, both in terms of the number of attacks and the levels of civilian harm, are places of worship. Eighteen of the 100 most injurious incidents took place in places of worship, which account for 17% (4,107) of civilian casualties (1,144 killed, 3,213 injured). 

Urban areas, including urban residential areas and attacks which occurred across multiple urban locations, account for 17 of the 100 most injurious incidents. In the attacks on these locations, 1,268 civilians were killed and 2,829 injured – 17% (4,097) of total civilian casualties. Ten attacks out of the 100 analysed here took place at public gatherings, killing and injuring 11% (2,701) of civilians (693 killed, 2,008 injured). 

Locations targeted in the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

LocationIncidentsCivilian casualties
Place of worship184107
Urban areas174097
Public gathering102701
Market122466
public building112238
Transport related infrastructure71707
Commercial premises31634
Entertainment51244
Road3963
Town centre4924
School3659
Police station3481
Public transport1224
No information1218
Hospital1190
Hotel1171

TIMING

Globally, over the past decade, the worst-affected months in terms of the quantity of mass casualty IED attacks have been March (11 incidents), May (11), August (10), September (10), and November (11), though the margins of difference are relatively small. However, March and October are the worst-impacted months in terms of civilian casualties, accounting for 12% (2,830) and 11% (2,759) of civilian harm respectively. Ten of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade occurred during the month of Ramadan in that particular year, resulting in 13% (3,024) of civilian casualties from the attacks analysed within this study.

Yearly distribution of the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022: incidents and civilian casualties

Monthly distribution of the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022: incidents and civilian casualties

Of note, the majority of mass casualty IED attacks over the past decade – 14 – were reported during months where the average temperature was 32 degrees Celsius, followed by seven when the average temperature for the month was 27, and six when it was 31. The average monthly temperatures recorded for the months in which mass casualty IED attacks occurred range from one degree Celsius to 44: the majority of attacks – 61 – took place when the average monthly temperature was above 22 degrees Celsius. See the more detailed breakdown in Annex D. 

Thirty-two of the 100 attacks occurred when the average monthly temperature was between 31 and 40 degrees Celsius, causing 32% (7,749) of the 24,024 civilians harmed in these attacks. This was the highest concentration of incidents and civilian harm by a significant margin, when compared to other temperature ranges. Overall, the concentration of attacks and civilian casualties increased as the temperature ranges increased, until they both fell steeply above 41 degrees Celsius. This may be related to the likelihood of civilian gatherings in public places as temperatures get warmer, before the heat becomes unbearable and people are more likely to remain indoors.

Monthly temperatures during the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022: incidents and civilian casualties

Over half of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade – 54 – took place on a weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), compared to 46 attacks across the remaining weekdays. Nineteen took place on a Saturday, 18 on a Friday, and 17 on a Sunday. By contrast, 13 took place on a Monday, 12 on a Thursday, 11 on a Tuesday, and ten on a Wednesday.

Attacks over the weekend caused 14,392 civilian casualties, or 60% of all 24,024 civilians harmed across these attacks. 

Days of the week most impacted by the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Day of the weekIncidentsCivilian casualties
Saturday195261
Friday184811
Sunday174320
Thursday122699
Tuesday112414
Monday132349
Wednesday102170

For the majority – 46 – of mass casualty IED attacks from 2013 to 2022, the timing of the attack was not reported. However, 21 reportedly took place in the morning, 17 in the evening, 13 in the afternoon, and three at night. Attacks which took place in the morning caused 25% (5,994) of civilian harm from the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade.

Timings of the most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Event timeIncidentsCivilian casualties
Not reported4610576
Morning (0500-1200)215994
Evening (1800-2300)173867
Afternoon (1200-1800)133042
Night (2300-0500)3545

COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES

AOAV identified four broad categories of counter-terrorism measures present in the countries affected by the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade:

  • targeting political opposition;
  • military operations;
  • US military intervention; and
  • countering the financing of terrorism. 

These categories are based on the main focus of a particular country’s legislation that year. The analysis in this report is based on the US Country Reports on Terrorism, available here (2016–2021), and here (2000–2015).

Counter-terrorism measures in countries impacted by the 100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

Targeting political opposition

The majority of the most injurious IED attacks over the past decade, 53, took place across seven countries where counter-terrorism legislation was frequently mobilised against political opposition and dissent. These attacks resulted in 52% (12,609) of civilian harm from the attacks in this study.

Attacks in countries where counter-terrorism legislation was used against political opposition, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Pakistan133180
Iraq153046
Syria132703
Türkiye61537
Lebanon31028
Sri Lanka1753
Egypt2362

US military intervention

Twenty-seven attacks took place in countries where the principal counter-terrorism measure was US military intervention, resulting in 6,904 civilian casualties, or 29% of all 24,024 civilians harmed in the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade. 

Attacks in countries where US intervention was the main counter-terrorism measure, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Afghanistan225067
Somalia51837

Military operations 

Nine of the attacks occurred in countries where domestic and collaborative military operations form the major thrust of a country’s counter-terrorism approach, killing and injuring 1,827 civilians, or 8% of all 24,024 civilians harmed.

Attacks in countries where military operations were the main counter-terrorism measure, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Nigeria71435
Chad1230
Cameroon1162

Anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism

Seven attacks took place in seven countries with a strong focus on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism policies in their counter-terrorism legislation, as well as limiting the flow of foreign fighters. These attacks caused 1,562 civilian casualties, 7% of all 24,024 civilians harmed.

Attacks in countries with a focus on anti-money laundering/terrorism financing legislation, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Belgium1372
US1267
Kuwait1227
UK1222
France1188
Thailand1145
Saudi Arabia1141

No comprehensive legislation

Four attacks were reported in two countries with no comprehensive counter-terrorism legislation at the time of the attack, killing and injuring 1,122 civilians (5% of all 24,024 civilian casualties).

Attacks in countries with no comprehensive counter-terrorism legislation, 2013–2022

CountryIncidentsCivilian casualties
Yemen2701
Lebanon2421

AOAV’s analysis of the 100 most injurious IED attacks over the past decade reveals a persistent pattern of violence that has inflicted immeasurable suffering on civilians worldwide. The scale of harm, with over 114,000 civilians killed or injured, underscores the urgent need for concerted international efforts to address this long-standing and ongoing threat.

CONCLUSION

The report explores several critical aspects of these attacks, shedding light on patterns in their geographical distribution, perpetrators, targets, timing, and the counter-terrorism measures in place in the target countries. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan have borne the brunt of the violence, with Afghanistan in particular experiencing devastating levels of harm from these attacks. 

Overall, AOAV found that mass casualty IED events are most likely to be suicide bombings occurring in the context of Islamist sectarian violence, targeting places of worship. The most injurious attacks predominantly take place over the weekend, between Friday and Sunday, when the temperature is between 26 and 40 degrees Celsius. 

On a more granular level, what stands out is the preponderance of mass casualty IED events in the context of NIACs, which are defined by the presence of active and organised armed groups – the main users of IEDs. In particular, non-state actors involved in an Islamist insurgency, or carrying out attacks in the context of sectarian strife between, predominantly, Muslim denominations, are the most likely to be involved in mass casualty IED events. However, it feels significant to note that countries with no NIAC or insecurity associated with armed groups, but who are active within the Global Coalition, have also been targets of mass casualty IED attacks over the past decade. In fact, IS and its affiliates are among the most harmful perpetrators of these attacks, causing the majority of civilian casualties in the context of the group’s Islamist insurgency.

Furthermore, the mass casualty events from IEDs studied here are characterised by the deliberate targeting of civilians, with the attacks often occurring during weekends and in urban areas, causing calculated suffering to innocent bystanders. In particular, the report highlights the dominance of suicide bombings among the most injurious IED attacks of the past decade. Suicide bombings are notoriously complex to prevent or intercept, and car bombs in particular, with their high explosive payload, can be particularly harmful. 

In conclusion, a better understanding of the sociopolitical context and the motivations behind these attacks is crucial for developing more targeted and nuanced responses. It is imperative that the international community remains vigilant in countering this threat, and works collectively to prevent further loss of innocent lives.

Action on Armed Violence would like to thank the French government for their assistance and support in the production of this report.

ANNEXES

ANNEX A

100 most injurious IED attacks, 2013–2022

ANNEX B

Conflicts

Non-international armed conflict (NIAC)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been embroiled in violence for decades. The country was among the worst affected in AOAV’s report on explosive violence from 2011 to 2020, featuring among the five worst-affected countries every year except in 2014, when it was sixth. In 2020, Afghanistan was the worst-impacted country, as the levels of violence in other countries dropped, but remained high in Afghanistan. 

Since the Northern Alliance – a group of anti-Taliban rebels backed by coalition forces – took Kabul and overthrew the Taliban by November 2001 and established a new constitution in 2004, the government of Afghanistan and international coalition forces have been pitted against the Taliban in an ongoing NIAC, which grew with the group’s resurgence in 2014 and ended in 2021 when the Taliban re-took Kabul. In 2015, militants proclaimed the establishment of a Khorasan Province branch of Islamic State (IS), Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP), and have been engaging in an NIAC with the Afghan government as well as a parallel NIAC with the Taliban. Since 2021 the Taliban, the de facto government of Afghanistan, has been engaged in an NIAC with IS-KP, and with the National Resistance Front loyal to the former government.

Overall, from 2013 to 2022, AOAV has recorded 3,717 incidents of explosive weapon use in Afghanistan, and 27,649 civilian casualties. This makes it the third most affected country over the past decade, both in terms of incidents and civilian harm, behind Syria (8,343 incidents, 71,359 civilian casualties) and Iraq (4,155 incidents, 45,396 civilian casualties). During that period, IEDs account for 53% (2,005) of recorded incidents, and 79% (21,727) civilian casualties from explosive weapon use in Afghanistan.

While the highest number of attacks was recorded in 2020 (473), the majority of civilian casualties from IED attacks were recorded in 2019, when 3,596 civilians were killed and injured in IED attacks across the country. While the majority, 74% (1,477), of IED attacks over the past decade were perpetrated by unknown non-state actors, 21% (423) were attributed to the Taliban, who caused 5,855 civilian casualties, and 5% (97) to the IS affiliate active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, IS-KP, who killed and injured 3,984 civilians. Four incidents were attributed to the National Resistance Front, who caused no reported civilian casualties, and two to Hizb-i-Islami, who killed and injured 57 civilians.

Pakistan

While violence in Pakistan has been decreasing since 2013, it remains one of the most affected countries for civilian casualties of explosive weapons use over the past decade. The Pakistani authorities have been conducting military operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) since 2002, as well as a variety of armed groups seeking independence in the province of Balochistan. In 2004, Pakistan launched an offensive against fighters allegedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the tribal zones along the Afghan border, followed by further offensives in subsequent years, and in 2014 a counter-terrorism operation was launched against various non-state armed groups. Furthermore, the status of Kashmir – a point of contention dating back to the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 – continues to cause tension between India and Pakistan, resulting in skirmishes, cross-border shelling, and tensions around the presence of militants. 

Overall, AOAV has recorded 1,960 incidents of explosive weapons use in Pakistan over the past decade, killing and injuring 15,321 civilians. It’s the fifth most affected country for civilian casualties of explosive violence, behind Syria (71,359 civilian casualties), Iraq (45,396), Afghanistan (27,649), and Yemen (17,125). It’s also the fifth most affected in terms of the number of recorded incidents, behind Syria (8,343 incidents), Iraq (4,155), Afghanistan (3,717), and Ukraine (2,899) – although the conflict in Ukraine, following from Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022, has caused incidents in the country to spike. Between 2013 and 2022, IEDs account for 50% (987) of recorded incidents in Pakistan, and 73% (11,162) of civilian casualties from explosive weapons use.

84% (830) of IED attacks in Pakistan over the past decade were perpetrated by unknown non-state actors, while 9% were attributed to the TTP (1,482 civilian casualties). Fourteen were attributed to the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), killing and injuring 88 civilians. Thirteen were reportedly carried out by the IS-KP (929 civilian casualties), 11 by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (992 civilian casualties), and nine by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (1,192 civilian casualties). Other non-state actors active in Pakistan over the past decade include Ahrar-Ul-Hind (one incident, 52 civilian casualties), Ansarul Mujahideen (six incidents, two civilian casualties), Baloch Liberation Tigers (three incidents, 52 civilian casualties), Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangal (one incident, no civilian casualties), the Baloch Liberation Front (one incident, no civilian casualties), Hisb-ul-Ahrar (two incidents, 24 civilian casualties), Jundullah (one incident, 121 civilian casualties), and the United Baloch Army (three incidents, 251 civilian casualties). Given the frequent splits and reuniting of groups in Pakistan, it is hard to keep track of the casualties from each group.

Iraq

Iraq has been the second most impacted country for incidents and civilian casualties of explosive violence over the past decade, from 2013 to 2022. Since 2011, 2013 and 2014 have been the years that saw the highest levels of explosive violence and civilian harm, with 689 incidents killing and injuring 12,799 civilians in 2013, and 610 incidents harming 10,735 civilians in 2014. These years correspond with the height of IS violence in the country.

Iraq has been engaged in an NIAC against IS and associated groups since 2014, and the US has been leading an international coalition against IS targets in Iraq since August 2014, at Iraq’s invitation. Furthermore, the NIAC between Türkiye and the Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party (PKK) spilled over in Iraq as of 2015, with Türkiye targeting PKK targets on Iraqi soil without Iraqi consent. While this means Iraq is also engaged in an IAC with Türkiye, Iraq has not escalated the violence by attacking Turkish targets.

Overall, AOAV has recorded 4,155 incidents of explosive weapons use in Iraq between 2013 and 2022, resulting in 45,396 civilian casualties. This makes it the second most affected country over the past decade, both in terms of incidents and civilian harm, behind Syria (8,343 incidents, 71,359 civilian casualties). In that time, IEDs account for 67% (2,769) of recorded incidents, and 76% (34,598) of civilian casualties from explosive weapons use in Iraq.

Eighty-three percent (2,298) of IED attacks in Iraq over the past decade were perpetrated by unknown non-state actors, while 17% were attributed to IS (8,791 civilian casualties). Nine were reportedly carried out by the PKK, one by the Mosul Brigades, and one by Ahrar Sinjar, none of which resulted in civilian casualties.

Syria

Syria has been embroiled in a deadly conflict since 2011, one involving many state actors– including Syria, Russia, and Türkiye – as well as many non-state actors and opposition groups, some aligned with and backed by states. It has been the worst-affected country for both incidents of and casualties from explosive violence in the past decade, with 71,359 civilians killed and injured across 8,343 incidents. While 2017, 2018, and 2019 were the years with the highest levels of recorded incidents – 1,750, 1,224, and 1,479 respectively – 2016 and 2017 saw the highest levels of civilian harm: 13,312 and 13,062 civilians killed and injured respectively. These years saw the sieges of Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor, and the Battle of Raqqa – all mass casualty battles. 

Since 2011 the Syrian government, supported by Russia, the Wagner Group, Hezbollah, and Shia militias, has been engaged in an NIAC against a broad range of opposition and rebel groups, including IS and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. There are further parallel NIACs between non-state actors across the country. Other NIACs have spilled over into Syria, notably Iraq’s war against IS and Al-Qaeda, assisted by US airstrikes, and Türkiye’s conflict with IS and Kurdish militias. Israel has also targeted Hezbollah and Iranian targets on Syrian soil, without the consent of the Syrian government. The US and the Global Coalition, Türkiye, and Israel have all carried out military operations in Syria without the government’s consent. Furthermore, Türkiye and Israel both currently occupy part of Syrian territory – Israel in the Golan Heights (since 1967) and Türkiye in the north (since 2016).

Over the past decade in Syria, IEDs have accounted for 20% (1,630) of recorded incidents of explosive weapons use, and 18% (12,491) of civilian casualties from such violence. 

Seventy-one percent (1,151) of IED attacks in Syria between 2013 and 2022 were perpetrated by unknown non-state actors, while 26% (424) were attributed to IS, who caused 4,230 civilian casualties. The fast and ever-shifting proliferation of rebel groups and alliances have meant that keeping track of non-state actors in the country and attributing casualties to specific actors has been challenging.

Instability 

Lebanon

Over the past decade, Lebanon has been the 22nd most impacted country for incidents of explosive violence, and the 13th most impacted in terms of civilian casualties, with 120 incidents causing 2,175 civilian casualties between 2013 and 2022. Explosive violence in the country has been decreasing since 2013, with significantly lower levels recorded over the past few years. 2013 was the year with the highest levels of harm from explosive violence, when Beirut and Tripoli experienced a high volume of IED attacks linked with Hezbollah and with the Syrian conflict, as well as other spillover violence from Syria.

Since 1967, Israel has occupied the Shebaa Farms area of Lebanon, on the Lebanese–Syrian border with the Golan Heights region. The territory was officially annexed in 1981. Furthermore, Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based armed group, has been assisting the Syrian government throughout the war, but Lebanon itself is not party to the conflict. Notwithstanding, violence in Syria has regularly and frequently spilled over in Lebanon: IS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighters have been present along the border and attacked Lebanese positions, leading to serious clashes in 2014, and the Lebanese armed forces undertake regular military operations against Syrian armed groups along the border. All of this exacerbates existing challenges and tensions stemming from the causes and consequences of the Lebanese civil war (1975–1990), notably issues of economic and social organisation, Palestinian and Israeli tensions, and religious anxieties.

Over the past decade, IEDs accounted for 36% (43) of recorded incidents of explosive violence in Lebanon, and 87% (1,894) of resulting civilian casualties in the country. Sixty-seven percent (29) of these IED attacks were perpetrated by unknown non-state actors. IS in Lebanon killed and injured 315 civilians across three attacks, while the Brigades of Aisha, a group predominantly fighting against Hezbollah and ‘Iranian colonies’ in Lebanon, caused 312 civilian casualties in one incident. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Lebanon, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, killed and injured 308 civilians across two incidents, and the Al-Nusra Front, a group of Syrian rebels, caused 141 civilian casualties across four incidents.

Sri Lanka

Over the past decade, Sri Lanka has been impacted by the spread of IS ideology, most notably in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings across the country, as well as unresolved tensions stemming from the decades-long civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2009. The scars of the conflict are felt in the high numbers of missing and displaced persons, and the lack of accountability, with the Tamil community largely remaining disenfranchised.

From 2013 to 2022, Sri Lanka was the 50th most affected country in terms of incidents of explosive weapons use, but the 20th worst impacted when it comes to civilian casualties. In that time, AOAV recorded ten incidents of explosive violence in the country, which caused 784 civilian casualties. The majority of those casualties took place in 2019, when the 21 April suicide attacks claimed by IS killed 253 civilians and injured 500.

In that time, the IS attack was the only IED attack recorded in the country, with one mine explosion and eight ground-launched attacks. However, that IED attack caused 96% (753) of the civilian casualties of explosive weapons use recorded in Sri Lanka over the past decade. IS are the only known and named perpetrators of explosive violence in Sri Lanka between 2013 and 2022.

Chad 

Over the past decade, Chad has been the 48th most affected country for incidents of explosive violence, with 12 incidents recorded there, and the 26th worst impacted for civilian casualties – 475 civilians have been killed and injured in Chad between 2013 to 2022. Chad has been pulled into the expanded activities of extremist groups in the Sub-Saharan region, including Boko Haram, and has long been plagued by political violence, poverty and difficult living conditions, and ethnic tensions.

All 12 incidents of explosive violence recorded in Chad over the past decade were IED attacks – six were attributed to Boko Haram (299 civilian casualties), and six to unknown actors (176 civilian casualties).

International coalition

The US, the UK, France, and Belgium are part of the international coalition against IS, known as the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and led by the US, carrying out airstrikes in Iraq (with the Iraqi government’s permission), and in Syria (without the Syrian government’s permission). The UK also provides training to Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and military advice to the Iraq security forces, and France deployed troops in 2013 to assist the African Union Mission in the Central African Republic as well as providing military support to the government in Mali. The US had troops deployed in Iraq; is training and equipping armed groups in Syria; and conducted airstrikes against IS in Libya, against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and in support of AMISOM and Somalia against Al-Shabaab.

Over the past decade, AOAV has recorded 54 incidents of explosive violence in the US, killing and injuring 361 civilians. 2018 was the year with the most recorded incidents –13 – but 2013 saw 272 civilians killed and injured across four incidents, the highest levels of civilian harm from explosive weapons in the US over the past decade. All incidents were caused by IEDs: 33 by unknown actors (73 civilian casualties), 18 by ‘lone wolf’ actors (284 civilian casualties), one by IS (four civilian casualties), and one by the US and a white supremacist group respectively, which caused no civilian casualties.

In France, nine incidents of explosive violence have been recorded between 2013 and 2022, killing and injuring 206 civilians. Six incidents took place in 2015, killing and injuring 191 civilians, one in 2017 (one civilian casualty), and two in 2019 (14 civilian casualties). Eight incidents were caused by IEDs, and one by a grenade. Seven of the IED attacks were attributed to IS, and one to unknown actors.

Eight incidents of explosive violence were recorded in the UK over the past decade, resulting in 296 civilian casualties. 2017 was the year with the highest levels of harm from explosive weapons, with two incidents resulting in 291 civilian casualties. All incidents were IED attacks, six by unknown actors, one by IS, and one by the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

In Belgium, two incidents, both in 2016, caused 261 civilian casualties. Both were IED attacks perpetrated by IS.

ANNEX C

Context

Islamist insurgency

Islamic State (IS) (and affiliates)

Formed in 1999 as part of the Al-Qaeda franchise, Islamic State – also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – is a Salafi–Jihadist militant organisation operating primarily in Syria and Iraq, where they aim to establish an Islamic caliphate, with affiliate groups operating globally as part of their goal of creating a global Salafi–Jihadist movement. 

Between 2013 and 2022, AOAV has recorded 1,389 incidents of explosive weapons use attributed to IS and their affiliates, across 33 countries. The countries most affected by IS violence are Iraq (543 incidents), Syria (522), Afghanistan (106), Egypt (48), and Yemen (36). 82% (1,143) of recorded IS attacks in the past decade have been IED attacks, causing 22,645 civilian casualties.

The Taliban

The Taliban are a predominantly Pashtum, Islamic fundamentalist group established in 1994, in the wake of the civil war following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. They took over the country from 1996 until they were ousted by the US in 2001, when they regrouped in Pakistan and began reclaiming territory less than ten years later. They took Kabul in 2021, seeking to establish a strictly Sharia-governed Afghan state.

Over the past decade, 593 incidents of explosive weapons use have been attributed to the Taliban, all in Afghanistan. These have caused 7,099 civilian casualties. 72% (426) of attacks attributed to the Taliban from 2013–2022 were IED attacks, resulting in 82% (5,844) of the civilian casualties caused by the group. 

Al-Shabaab

Breaking away from the Islamic Courts Union in 2006, having served as its military wing, Al-Shabaab is the largest armed organisation fighting to oust the Somali government and the foreign military presence assisting them. Their goal is to establish a new Somali state, governed by a strict interpretation of Sharia law.

Between 2013 and 2022, AOAV has recorded 373 incidents of explosive weapons use attributed to Al-Shabaab, killing and injuring 4,782 civilians. 334 of those attacks took place in Somalia, while 39 of them happened across the border in Kenya. 83% (313) of attacks attributed to Al-Shabaab were IED attacks, causing 93% (4,439) of civilian casualties of Al-Shabaab explosive violence. 

Sectarian violence

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

This Pakistani Sunni militant group splintered from the Sunni organisation Sipah-e-Sahaba in 1996, and has since fueled sectarian violence in the country by targeting Shiites, high level politicians, and other ethnic minorities, as well as Western influences, with the goal of establishing a Sunni state in Pakistan. 

Over the past decade, AOAV has recorded nine incidents of explosive weapons use attributed to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, resulting in 1,192 civilian casualties. All nine attacks were IED attacks. 

Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

Based in South Waziristan, the TTP is closely linked to Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The Sunni pro-Pashtun group has three central goals: to enforce Sharia law in Pakistan; to support the Afghan Taliban’s control in Kabul after the US withdrawal of forces; and to conduct defensive jihad against Pakistani security forces. The group also seeks to overthrow the Pakistani government and establish an Islamic caliphate in Pakistan.

From 2013 to 2022, AOAV has recorded 93 incidents of explosive weapons use attributed to the TTP, killing and injuring 1,706 civilians. Eighty-eight percent (82) of the TTP’s attacks were IED attacks, resulting in 1,482 civilian casualties. 

Boko Haram

Boko Haram was formed in 2002, as a Sunni islamist sect opposing Western education, with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in Nigeria. 

Between 2013 and 2022, AOAV has recorded 126 incidents of explosive weapons use attributed to Boko Haram, resulting in 2,961 civilian casualties. The majority – 80% (101) – of Boko Haram’s attacks took place in Nigeria, but 14 have been recorded in Cameroon, six in Chad, and five in Niger. Eighty-six percent (108) of Boko Haram attacks over the past decade were perpetrated using IEDs, resulting in 93% (2,743) of Boko Haram’s civilian casualties. 

Anti-government violence

Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK)

Understood among analysts as the semi-autonomous proxy of the Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party, from which it publicly split in 2004, the TAK carried out attacks in Türkiye during times of increasing military pressure on Kurdish militants. 

Over the past decade, AOAV has recorded six incidents of explosive weapons use attributed to the TAK, which have killed and injured 458 civilians. Five of the six attacks were IED attacks (456 civilian casualties).

Brigades of Aisha

The Brigades of Aisha are a little known Sunni group, who were reportedly targeting Hezbollah in the attack, in retaliation for Hezbollah’s support for the Syrian government. Hezbollah also plays a role in the deadlock experienced by the Lebanese government over the past decade. The attack featured in this analysis is the only attack attributed to this group recorded by AOAV over the past decade. 

Al-Qaeda in Lebanon (Abdullah Azzam Brigades)

Set up in 2009, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades are a Sunni jihadist group operating under the auspices of Al-Qaeda. They promote themselves as protectors of Sunni Muslims, resisting the Shia domination of Lebanon, and in particular, condemning support for the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war. Al-Qaeda is one of the longest-operating jihadist militant organisations, with the goal of liberating the Muslim world from foreign influence and establishing Sharia-based Islamic governments. 

AOAV has recorded 34 incidents of explosive weapon use by Al-Qaeda affiliates over the past decade, most of them – 30 – in Yemen, perpetrated by Al-Qaeda’s franchise there, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP has killed and injured 150 civilians in Yemen between 2013 and 2022. Two of the attacks took place in Lebanon, perpetrated by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (308 civilian casualties), and two by Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Mali (33 civilian casualties). Ninety-one percent (31) of the attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda and affiliates were IED attacks, resulting in 99% (488) of the group’s civilian casualties.

ANNEX D

Average monthly temperature when the 100 most injurious IED attacks took place, 2013–2022

Average monthly temperature (Celsius)IncidentsCivilian casualties
32143700
2041612
2771597
3161499
2651201
1451169
2931122
4431003
183852
94826
344751
133708
194663
233632
112607
213596
332502
362501
302490
242481
123465
223454
402387
11338
162285
151270
351225
411218
251197
371184
421167
81163
281159