Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bombs Away

More than 33,000 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2015, an increase of more than 50% in five years. In ‘Unacceptable Harm’, a report by the charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), it recorded an average of 30 civilian deaths a day from explosive weapons last year. Attacks by explosive weapons were recorded in 63 countries and territories around the world – five more countries than in 2014. More than 90% of those reported to have been harmed by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians, it says. Nearly 44,000 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons, of which 33,307 – or 76% – were civilians, in just over 2,000 incidents last year, the report says. Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan witnessed the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries by explosive weapons in 2015. Syria alone accounted for nearly 9,000 deaths and injuries from such weapons last year, a 40% increase over 2014.

The number of civilians killed or injured by suicide attacks also rose sharply, reaching 9,205 last year, an increase of 68% on 2014, even though the number of individual attacks – 253 – was about the same. More than half of the 16,180 civilians killed or injured by all improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including car bombs, were victims of suicide attacks.

Suicide bomb attacks occurred in 21 countries, the highest figure ever recorded. They were: Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Chad, Cameroon, Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, France, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Libya, Egypt, China, India, Bangladesh, Mali and Tunisia.

Roger Mullin, a Scottish National party MP and chair of an all-party parliamentary group on explosive weapons, said: “Be it air-dropped bombs in Yemen, ground-launched rockets in Ukraine, barrel bombs in Syria or suicide attacks in Iraq, it is clear that 2015 was a terrible year for the harm brought on civilians the world over from explosive violence. Year in and year out we see the same truth – that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, civilians will make up over 90% of those killed or injured. Collectively, we need to come together to work out how to stop this harm and a first step would be the UK government – and others – coming out and explicitly condemning the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities.”

Thangam Debbonaire, MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on refugees, said: “These figures underpin a deeper and terrible reality – that explosive violence in places like Syria, Iraq and Yemen is fuelling a worldwide crisis in refugees. Tens of thousands of homes and lives have been destroyed by these weapons and their impact is all too evident in the flow of desperate people into Europe and beyond.”

The report defines explosive weapons as weapons that share common characteristics causing deaths, injuries and damage by projecting explosive blast, heat, or fragmentation around a point of detonation. They include air-dropped bombs, mortars, IEDs and artillery shells. IEDs accounted for 16,199 civilian deaths or injuries, suicide bombers for 9,205, airstrikes for 9,200 and ground-launched weapons for 7,095. The Saudi-led coalition that has in part used British weaponry to attack targets in Yemen was the biggest state user of explosive weapons in 2015, followed by Syria. Islamic State was by far the biggest non-state actor using such weapons. Attacks on markets were among the most lethal, according to the report, followed by attacks on places of worship, public gatherings and commercial premises.

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