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Explosive Violence in March 2023

In March 2023, Action on Armed Violence recorded 2,583 deaths and injuries from 513 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 57% (1,467) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 85% (1,333) of the casualties were civilians, compared to 13% (134) in other areas.

Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 86% (1,255) of civilian casualties, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 12% (178) of these civilian casualties in March 2023. Of the main launch-method types of manufactured explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons accounted for 71% (1,039) of civilian casualties, air-launched weapons were responsible for 7% (108) of civilian casualties, and landmines were responsible for 4% (52) of civilian casualties.

At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 27 countries and territories in March 2023. The five most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Ukraine (602 civilian casualties), Somalia (364), Myanmar (140), Syria (95), and Yemen (77).

UKRAINE

In March 2023, there were 214 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Ukraine, 205 of which resulted in 602 civilian casualties, of whom 152 were killed and 450 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 17 children and 53 women. Overall, civilians accounted for 92% of all 657 casualties recorded in Ukraine in March, as there were also 55 armed-actor casualties, of whom 35 were killed and 20 injured.

The majority of civilian casualties, 95% (571), occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 44% (263) occurred in urban residential areas, 30% (178) across multiple urban locations, 13% (79) in villages, 3% (21) in schools, 3% (18) in humanitarian infrastructure, and less than 1% in markets (3), transport-related infrastructure (3), commercial premises (3), entertainment venues (2), and other locations (1) respectively.

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine were Donetsk (258 civilian casualties), Kherson (157), Zaporizhzhia (71), Kharkiv (30), Dnipropetrovsk (24), Sumy (23), Kyiv (18), Mykolaiv (9), Lviv (7), Odesa (3), and Chernihiv (2).

The vast majority of civilian casualties, 96% (576), were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons. Specifically, Russian armed forces reportedly caused 96% (572) of civilian casualties, and Ukraine’s armed forces and unknown state actors caused <1% (2) respectively. Perpetrators of unknown status and name reportedly caused 3% (19) of civilian casualties, and non-state actors caused 1% (7). Ukrainian resistance groups caused 3 civilian casualties, and unknown non-state actors caused 4. 

The use of ground-launched explosive weapons was the cause of 73% (438) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (218 civilian casualties), combined ground-launched weapons (5902), missiles (66), rockets (35), artillery shells (22), mortar shells (4), and grenades (3). Weapons of unclear launch method, specifically missiles, caused 9% (55) of civilian casualties. Mines caused 6% (36) of civilian casualties, specifically landmines (21), anti-vehicle mines (12), anti-personnel mines (3), while IEDs caused 1% (5), in particular car bombs (3), and non-specific IEDs (2). The use of combined explosive weapons caused 6% (34) of civilian casualties, and air-launched weapons caused 6% (34), specifically air strikes (29 civilian casualties), and missiles (5).

The number of incidents of explosive weapon use in Ukraine in March 2023 increased compared to levels recorded in February, in which 179 incidents caused 456 civilian casualties, of which 116 killed and 534062 injured. In January, 235 incidents caused 783 civilian casualties (221 killed and 562 injured). 

SOMALIA

In March 2023, there were 13 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Somalia, nine of which caused 364 civilian casualties, 61 of whom were killed and 303 injured. Civilian casualties included at least one woman. Overall, civilians accounted for 83% of the total 440 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 76 armed-actor casualties were also recorded, 61 of whom were killed and 15 injured.

All civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 91% (333) occurred in urban residential areas, 3% (11) in hotels, 2% (8) in public buildings and entertainment venues respectively, and 1% (4) across multiple urban areas.

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Somalia were Somaliland (333 civilian casualties), Banaadir (17), and Gedo (14). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 99% (361), were caused by non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Somaliland militias (333 civilian casualties), Al Shabaab (20), and unknown non-state actors (8). Actors of unknown status and name caused <1% (3) of civilian casualties.

Ground-launched weapons caused the vast majority of civilian casualties, 96% (349). Specifically, non-specific shelling caused 333 civilian casualties, grenades caused 8, and mortars caused 8. The use of IEDs, specifically car bombs, caused 3% (12) of civilian casualties, and landmines caused 1% (3).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Somalia in March 2023 continued to rise compared to February, when 26 incidents caused 237 reported civilian casualties (101 killed, 136 injured). In January, 26 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, which resulted in 178 reported civilian casualties (81 killed, 97 injured).

MYANMAR

In March 2023, there were 113 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Myanmar, 35 of which caused 140 civilian casualties, 44 of whom were killed and 96 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 21 children and 17 women. Overall, civilians accounted for 18% of the total 786 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 646 armed-actor casualties were also recorded, 481 of whom were killed and 165 injured.

98% (137) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 53% (74) occurred in villages, 35% (49) in urban residential areas, 6% (8) in other populated areas, 1% (2) in transport-related infrastructure, and 1% in schools (1) and public buildings (1) respectively. 

The states in which civilian casualties were reported in Myanmar were Sagaing (50 civilian casualties), Mon (23), Kayah (19), Bago (11), Chin (11), Karen (11), Tanintharyi (9), Magwe (4), Rakhine (1), and Yangon (1). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 80% (112), were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Myanmar’s military junta. Non-state actors caused 19% (26) of civilian casualties, specifically unknown non-state actors (23 civilian casualties), and the People’s Defense Forces (3). Actors of unknown name and status caused 1% (2) of civilian casualties. 

The use of ground-launched weapons was the cause of 54% (75) of civilian casualties, specifically artillery shelling (64 civilian casualties), non-specific shelling (9), and mortars (2). Air-strikes caused 26% (37) of civilian casualties. The use of IEDs caused 16% (23) of civilian casualties, specifically roadside bombs (20 civilian casualties) and non-specific IEDs (3), and landmines caused 4% (5).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Myanmar in March 2023 increased compared to February, when 100 incidents caused 103 reported civilian casualties (34 killed, 69 injured). In January, 100 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, and they caused 170 civilian casualties (39 killed and 131 injured). 

SYRIA

In March 2023, there were 53 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Syria, 26 of which resulted in 95 civilian casualties, of whom 36 were killed and 59 injured. Civilian casualties include at least seven children and six women. Overall, civilians accounted for 49% of the total 195 casualties, as there were also 100 recorded armed-actor casualties, 68 of whom were killed and 32 injured.

65% (62) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 41% (39) occurred in urban residential areas, 17% (16) in villages, 3% (3) in encampments, and 2% (2) in commercial premises and transport-related infrastructure respectively. 

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Syria were Deir Ezzor (33), Hama (24), Aleppo (20), Daraa (6), Homs (6), Rif Dimashq (2), Damascus (2), Raqqa (1), and Idlib (1).

The majority of civilian casualties, 51% (48), were caused by non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically ISIS (25 civilian casualties) unknown non-state actors (18), individuals (3), and the Turkish-backed National Defence (2). State actors’ use of explosive weapons caused 24% (23) of civilian casualties, specifically Syria (19 civilian casualties), Israel (2), and Turkey (2). Actors of unknown name and status caused 25% (24) of civilian casualties.

IEDs caused 41% (39) of civilian casualties. In particular, non-specific IEDs caused 37 civilian casualties, and roadside bombs caused 2. The use of ground-launched weapons caused 32% (30) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (15 civilian casualties), grenades (5), rockets (4), artillery shells (4), and mortars (2).  Air-launched weapons, specifically airstrikes, caused 22% (21) of civilian casualties, and landmines caused 5% (5). 

Harm from explosive weapon use in Syria in March 2023 increased compared to February, when 43 incidents caused 86 reported civilian casualties (32 killed and 54 injured). In January, 63 incidents were recorded, causing 42 civilian casualties (13 killed, 29 injured).

YEMEN

In March 2023, there were 33 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Yemen, 29 of which resulted in 77 civilian casualties, 13 of whom were killed and 64 injured. Overall, civilians accounted for 85% of the total 91 casualties, as 14 armed actor casualties were also recorded, seven of whom were killed and seven injured.

The majority, 84% (65), of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 77% (59) occurred in urban residential areas, and 8% (6) across multiple urban areas.

All civilian casualties were recorded in Saada. 

All recorded civilian casualties were reportedly caused by Saudi Arabia’s use of explosive weapons.

All civilian casualties were caused by ground-launched weapons, specifically non-specific shelling (28 civilian casualties), and artillery shelling (33).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Yemen in March 2023 increased compared to February, when 29 incidents caused 56 reported civilian casualties, 13 of whom were killed and 43 injured. In January, 40 incidents were recorded, which resulted in 112 civilian casualties (13 killed, 99 injured).



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 effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.