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Report on Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Incidents for January – June 2023

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based charity monitoring the causes and consequences of explosive violence globally, released their analysis of IED incidents in the first half of 2023. The period from January to June 2023 witnessed a total of 640 incidents involving Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which accounted for 21% of all explosive weapon use during this time frame. A significant number of civilians were affected by these incidents, with 1,456 casualties recorded, including 450 deaths and 1,006 injuries. This casualty toll made up 36% of all IED-related casualties (totaling 4,034) and 16% of all civilian casualties from explosive weapons (totaling 9,252) so far in the year.

These incidents have had a far-reaching impact, with 33 different countries and territories around the world being affected by IEDs in the first half of the year.

In the breakdown of incidents by country, Somalia had the most incidents with 53, which resulted in 246 civilian casualties, including 117 fatalities and 129 injuries. Afghanistan saw 22 incidents leading to 206 civilian casualties, with 63 killed and 143 injured. Pakistan also experienced a significant number of incidents (58), with 176 civilian casualties, 39 of which were fatal, and 137 injuries.

30 January 2023: Investigations underway after suicide bombing at Pakistan mosque kills 32 (by Kanal13)

While the majority of incidents, 180, were recorded along roads (16 on roads in populated or urban areas, and 164 in other locations), the majority of civilian casualties, 200, occurred when IEDs were used in urban residential areas. These locations account for 14% of civilian harm from IEDs. 136 civilians were reported killed and injured when IEDs were used across multiple urban areas, 133 on roads, 119 in public buildings, and 105 in places of worship. 

Several different groups were identified as the perpetrators of these IED incidents. ISIS was responsible for the most incidents, with 90 recorded, leading to 342 civilian casualties, including 125 deaths and 217 injuries. Al Shabaab followed with 51 incidents, resulting in 220 civilian casualties, 100 fatalities, and 120 injuries. The Baloch Liberation Army was responsible for a smaller number of incidents (8), leading to 20 civilian casualties, with 2 deaths and 18 injuries.

The report also categorized the intended targets of the IED incidents. The state’s armed forces were the most targeted, with 314 incidents leading to 111 civilian and 2,028 armed actor casualties. Armed groups were targeted in 50 incidents, resulting in 979 civilian and 228 armed actor casualties. Civilians were the direct targets in 33 incidents, resulting in 222 casualties, including 19 armed actor casualties. Additionally, unarmed state targets were affected in 16 incidents, which led to 130 civilian and 27 armed actor casualties. International armed actors were targeted in 6 incidents, all of which resulted in no civilian casualties, but 86 armed actor casualties.

In the first half of 2022, AOAV recorded fewer incidents of IED usage (386), but 1,951 civilian casualties across 30 countries – the worst affected being Afghanistan (574 civilian casualties), Pakistan (375), and Somalia (330). From January to June 2022, IEDs accounted for 24% of all 1,576 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use, and 21% of all 9,313 reported civilian casualties of explosive violence globally. However, armed actor casualties from the use of IEDs are seeing higher levels so far in 2023: from January to June 2022 AOAV recorded 909 armed actors killed and injured by IEDs, compared to 2,578 in the same timeframe in 2023. Overall in 2022, 4,277 civilians and 2,363 armed actors were reported killed and injured by IEDs across 900 incidents in 42 countries.

Between the start of AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitoring Project, in 2010, and the end of December 2022, 14,242 incidents involving IEDs were recorded, and 147,482 resulting civilian casualties (40,840 killed, 106,642 injured). In that time, IEDs accounted for 36% of all explosive weapon use recorded globally, and 49% of all civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons.

2022 was the year with the lowest number of IED attacks and lowest levels of civilian harm from IEDs recorded since 2011. Overall, recorded incidents involving IEDs, as well as civilian casualties from these weapons, have been decreasing gradually since 2013, which was the year with the most recorded incidents – 1,461 – and the highest levels of civilian harm. AOAV recorded 22,772 civilians killed and injured in IED attacks that year. 

Levels of IED violence fell dramatically in 2020, with the total harm from IEDs (civilians and armed actors) dropping by a record 40% when compared to 2019. Numbers remained low from 2020 onwards, coinciding with global lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s likely both the pandemic and government responses impacted on patterns of IED use, and patterns of reporting. While levels of civilian harm have remained lower in the first half of 2023, the number of recorded incidents of IED attacks and level of armed actor harm suggest the trend is once more on the rise.

In conclusion, the first half of 2023 saw a concerning trend in levels of IED-related incidents, with a significant number of countries impacted by IED violence. This report underscores the global challenge posed by IEDs and highlights the urgent need for improved prevention measures, public safety initiatives, and international cooperation in addressing this threat.