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Explosive Violence in October 2021

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In October 2021, Action on Armed Violence recorded 1,731 deaths and injuries from 141 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 51% (875) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive violence was used in populated areas, 88% of all casualties were civilians, compared to 3% in other areas.

Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 51% (444) of these civilian casualties in October 2021, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 50% (431). Of the main launch method types, IEDs were responsible for 50% (431) of civilian casualties, while ground-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 40% of civilian casualties (346), and air-launched explosive weapons for 10% (87). The remaining 1% of civilian casualties were caused by landmines (11).

At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 17 countries and territories in October 2021. The five most impacted countries were Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia and Iraq – in terms of civilian casualties.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan was the country worst impacted by explosive weapons in October 2021. There were eight total incidents of casualty-causing explosive weapon use recorded, six of which caused a total of 338 civilian casualties. 120 of these civilian casualties were killed and 218 injured, all in populated areas. These civilian casualties were caused primarily by the detonation of IEDs and roadside bombs, and one incident involved ground-launched weapons, specifically a grenade. The provinces where incidents of explosive weapon use took place were Kabul, Kunar, Kunduz, and Nangarhar. The location-types in which civilians were killed and injured included places of worship (321), urban residential areas (13), and villages (4).

Of the total 338 civilian casualties, 88% (296) occurred in two Islamic State suicide bombings at Shia mosques, one in the northern province of Kunduz and the other in the southern province of Kandahar. On 8 October 2021, at least 50 civilians were killed and 100 injured when an Islamic State suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest inside the Said Abad mosque in the city of Kunduz. More than 300 people were attending prayers when the attack happened. A week later, on 15 October 2021, 63 civilians were killed and 83 injured when two Islamic State suicide bombers detonated explosive vests inside the Bibi Fatima mosque in the city of Kandahar. The third-highest casualty incident in October also took place at a mosque. On 3 October 2021, a roadside bomb was detonated outside the Eid Gah mosque in Kabul at a memorial service. The attack killed five civilians and injured 20 others.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapons in Afghanistan in October saw a significant increase from September, in which 11 civilian casualties were recorded across three incidents of explosive weapon use. This increase is owed to the rise in high-casualty attacks by the Islamic State on Shia mosques.

YEMEN

In Yemen, there were 13 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in October, ten of which caused a total of 200 civilian casualties. 90 of these civilian casualties were killed and 110 injured. Civilians accounted for 32% (200) of the total recorded casualties (622). All civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Ground-launched weapons, including missiles and artillery shelling, caused 82% (164) of civilian casualties, with missiles accounting for the highest proportion at 54% (107). IEDs, specifically car bombs, accounted for 18% (36) of civilian casualties. There were 422 armed-actor casualties from the use of explosive weapons, 416 of which were killed by airstrikes.

The governorates in which civilian casualties occurred were Marib (107), Saada (47), Aden (40), and Taiz (6). The location-types in which civilian casualties occurred were urban residential areas (96), villages (42), transport related infrastructure (23), and places of worship (39). Non-state actors were the recorded perpetrators of 75% (149) of civilian casualties, with Houthi rebels specifically named as the perpetrator of 56% (113) civilian deaths and injuries. State actors, namely Saudi Arabia, were responsible for 24% (47) of civilian casualties. Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition were responsible for all recorded armed-actor casualties.

Most civilian and armed-actor casualties in Yemen in October occurred in Marib governorate, where fighting has intensified between the Houthis and government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition. In Marib in October 2021, 54 civilians were killed and 53 injured by Houthi missile strikes in populated areas.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapons in Yemen nearly tripled in October compared to September, compared to October’s 200. in September 2021. However, the number of recorded incidents increased by only two in October, illustrating the increased lethality and harm per incident. Armed-actor casualties also saw a significant increase, from seven in September to 422 in October. This is the result of an intensification of fighting in Marib as the Houthis carry out an offensive on government forces’ last stronghold in Yemen.

SYRIA

In Syria, there were 47 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in October, 28 of which caused a total of 178 civilian casualties, including 34 fatalities and 144 injuries (17 casualties were women and 27 were children). Civilians accounted for 55% (178) of the total casualties (322), as 144 armed-actors were killed and injured. When casualties occurred in populated areas, civilians made up 75% of those killed and injured.

Of the 178 civilian casualties, 46% (86) occurred in villages, followed by areas where multiple urban spaces were affected (67), urban residential areas (11), roads (5), agricultural land (4), and encampments (1). The majority of civilian casualties occurred in Idlib (108) and Aleppo (57).

The use of ground-launched weapons, specifically artillery shelling, missiles, rockets and grenades caused the majority of civilian death and injury, resulting in 77% (138) of civilian casualties. IEDs, car bombs and landmines, caused 15% (27) of civilian casualties. Air-launched weapons, specifically airstrikes, accounted for 7% (13) of civilian casualties.

State actors were reportedly responsible for 78% (139) of civilian casualties, primarily Syrian regime forces (124) and Turkey (14), while non-state actors were reportedly responsible for 20% (36) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapons in Syria have decreased by 16% from September to October 2021. The number of civilian fatalities fell by 46%, from 63 deaths in September to 34 in October. Idlib remained the most dangerous province in terms of explosive weapon harm, accounting for over half of all civilian casualties in both September and October 2021.

ETHIOPIA

In Ethiopia, there were three incidents of explosive weapons use recorded in October, all of which took place in Mekelle, Tigray, resulting in 44 civilian casualties (including six children). All three incidents were Ethiopian state airstrikes on populated areas. There were no recorded armed-actor casualties in October.

The incident with the highest number of casualties took place on 28 October 2021, when 10 civilians were killed (including three children), and 21 injured by an Ethiopian state airstrike on a residential area of Mekelle, Tigray. The government claimed the attack targeted a factory used by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. On 18 October 2021, three children were killed and ten people injured in two Ethiopian state airstrikes in Mekelle.

IRAQ

In Iraq, there were 23 incidents of explosive weapon use in October, 12 of which caused a total of 30 civilian casualties, including five fatalities and 25 injuries. Civilians accounted for 44% (30) of the total casualties (68). There were an additional 38 armed-actor casualties. Of the 12 incidents of explosive weapon use that caused civilian casualties, nine incidents were in populated areas, causing 70% (21) of civilian deaths and injuries.

The use of IEDs, caused 43% (13) civilian casualties, while ground-launched weapons caused 25% (8) civilian casualties, air-launched weapons accounted for 17% (5) of civilian casualties, and landmines accounted for 13% (4). Non-state actors were the recorded perpetrators of 43% (13) of civilian casualties, and state actors, primarily Turkey and Iraq, caused 17% (5). The perpetrator status was unknown in the case of 12 civilian casualties.

Explosive weapon use that caused civilian casualties was recorded in Salahuddin (10 civilians), Nineveh (6), Diyala (5), Kirkuk (3), Baghdad (2), Najaf (2), and Sulaymaniyah (2).

The number of incidents, civilian casualties, locations, perpetrators and weapons used in October 2021 was very similar to that of September, with no significant deviations in trends across any recording category as it relates to civilians. There was, however, a notable decrease in the number of armed-actor casualties from explosive weapon use, from 82 in September to 38 in October.

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.