Last updated: 13 July 2017

Casualties Overview

All known casualties by end 2016

29,662 mine/unexploded remnants of war (ERW) casualties (6,761 killed and 22,901injured) between 1978 and 2016[1]

Casualties in 2016

1,943 (2015: 1,587)

2016 casualties by outcome

780 killed; 1,163 injured (2015: 644 killed; 943 injured)

2016 casualties by device type

137 antipersonnel mine; 46 antivehicle mine; 1,180 improvised mine; 580 ERW


The Monitor recorded 1,943 new casualties due to mines, including improvised mines (victim-activated improvised explosive devices, IEDs), and ERW in Afghanistan for 2016.

Data was provided by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in support of the Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC); until 2016 the responsible agency was the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA). According to Monitor analysis of the available data for the 2016 total, 1,180 casualties resulted from improvised mines (victim-activated IEDs, specifically pressure-plate IEDs, PP-IEDs).[2] The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that improvised mines constructed as PP-IEDs “function as victim-activated devices, triggered by any person stepping on them—including children—or any vehicle driving over them.” These improvised mines therefore likely fit the Mine Ban Treaty definition of antipersonnel mines.[3]

There has been a trend of increasing mine/ERW casualties in Afghanistan since 2013. While improvised mines continued to cause the greatest number of casualties, casualties increased annually between 2013 and 2016 for several types of explosive devices: antipersonnel mines,[4] antivehicle mines,[5] improvised mines,[6] and ERW.[7]

The number of PP-IED casualties recorded in 2016 by UNAMA as of 17 March 2017, was 1,100. Mine/ERW and IED casualties data in Afghanistan is updated regularly and therefore discrepancies often occur in total numbers of recorded casualties between update periods. UNAMA also uses a strict and exacting methodology for verification of civilian casualties, and acknowledges that this, together with limitations in the operating environment, creates the possibility of under-reporting. UNAMA describes its methodology and limitations on its data as follows: “For verification of each incident involving a civilian casualty, UNAMA requires at least three different and independent types of sources, i.e. victim, witness, medical practitioner, local authorities, confirmation by party to the conflict, community leader or other sources…Where UNAMA is not satisfied with information concerning an incident, it will not consider it as verified. Unverified incidents are not included in this report…UNAMA does not claim that the statistics presented in this report are complete and acknowledges possible under-reporting of civilian casualties given limitations inherent in the operating environment.” [8]

Civilian casualties from pressure-plate or victim-activated IEDs accounted for more than half of civilian casualties from IEDs reported by UNAMA for 2016 in its annual report (1,100 civilian casualties: 473 killed and 627 injured). Whereas improvised mine (specifically PP-IED) casualties increased between 2015 and 2016, UNAMA recorded decreases in civilian deaths and injuries from command-detonated IEDs [9] not prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty.[10]

The overall total for 2016 was comprised of 1,927 civilian and 16 deminer casualties of mines/ERW. However, UNMAS stated that casualty figures are underreported, as they know of or suspect others that have not been recorded.[11]

The 2016 casualty total represented an increase from 2015, for which UNMAS reported 1,587 new casualties due to mines/ERW in Afghanistan, including 486 casualties of mines/ERW and 1,101 casualties from improvised mines.[12] However, UNAMA reported 1,054 casualties from improvised landmines (victim-activated IEDs) in 2015, as recorded in the Monitor total for that year.[13] Due to the inconsistency of data, which changes significantly with each revision of the database, the exact annual figures may not be reliable over time; however trends appear to be indicative.

An increase in the number of civilian casualties of improvised mines was recorded in Afghanistan in 2016, continuing a growing annual trend. The total number of improvised landmine casualties reported with disaggregated data by UNMAS and/or UNAMA for the years 2012–2016: 2016 (1,180), 2015 (1,101), 2014 (809),[14] 2013 (567), and 2012 (987) was far higher than those identified in the years prior to 2011.[15]

In 2016, 820 children were killed or injured, making up 42% of the total casualties. This is a greater proportion of child casualties reported for 2015 (36%, or 577 casualties). The vast majority of the 2016 casualties were male (85%, or 1,650), and 15% (293) were female. The 2016 casualties total was comprised of 143 girls, 150 women, 677 boys, and 973 men.

In 2016, 16 deminer casualties were recorded by UNMAS. This marked a significant increase from the nine reported for 2015,[16] but was similar to the other recent years, with 16 deminer casualties reported in 2014 and 18 in 2013.

In 2016, 15 casualties were listed with military as their occupation, however, in almost all (13) cases, the incidents occurred while they were engaged in civilian activities and all are recorded as civilian casualties.[17] No other data for military casualties in 2016 was reported by UNMAS/DMAC.

Both the Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC) of the Government of Afghanistan (previously, MACCA) and UNAMA had expressed concerns about civilian casualties from ERW associated with the closure of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) bases and high-explosive firing ranges. Many of the ranges were not sufficiently cleared of ERW prior to closure.[18] When data was reviewed by UNMAS in 2017, it was found that some data from ground engagements were misreported among firing range casualties; therefore the data was amended. As of June 2017, casualties from bases and ranges were recorded as follows: two in 2009, nine in 2010, 15 in 2011, 49 in 2012, 53 in 2013, 34 in 2014, eight in 2015, and 22 in 2016.[19]

UNMAS/DMAC data has indicated that there have been 29,662 mine/ERW casualties (6,761 killed and 22,901 injured) between 1978 and 2016.[20]

Cluster munition casualties

Since 1980, 756 casualties of cluster munition remnants have been recorded. In addition, at least 26 casualties during cluster munitions strikes have been recorded.[21] MACCA data included 249 unexploded submunition casualties since 1981.[22] No unexploded submunition casualties were reported in 2016; four were reported in 2015.

 [1] Emails from Habib Khan Zazai, Head of Victim Assistance Department, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 7 May 2017, and 17 June 2017.

[2] Unless otherwise indicated, casualty data for 2015 and 2016 is based on Monitor analysis of data provided by email from Habib Khan Zazai, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 7 May 2017. Data also includes PP-IED casualties recorded by UNAMA as published in UNAMA’s “Protection of Civilians Annual Report 2016,” February 2017; and email exchange with UNAMA, 17 March and 11 June 2017.

[3] UNAMA “Protection of Civilians Annual Report 2016,” February 2017, pp. 7, 52, 56.

[4] 52 casualties in 2014, 97 in 2015, and 13 in 2016.

[5] 4 casualties in 2014, 28 in 2015, and 44 in 2016.

[6] 809 casualties in 2014, 1,101 in 2015, and 1,180 in 2016.

[7] 430 casualties in 2014, 357 in 2015, and 581 in 2016.

[8] See, UNAMA “Protection of Civilians Annual Report 2016,” February 2017, pp. 1–2.

[9] Including remote-controlled, non-suicide vehicle-borne, and magnetic IEDs.

[10] In 2015 reporting, UNAMA documented 1,058 civilian casualties (465 killed and 593 injured) from PP-IEDs. UNAMA “Protection of Civilians Annual Report 2016,” February 2017, p. 7.

[11] Email from Habib Khan Zazai, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 5 April 2017.

[12] Ibid., 17 June 2017. The total number of casualties reported for 2015 increased in 2017 from that provided to the Monitor in 2016 and was also revised by UNMAS between April and June 2017.

[13] Updated information provided by Human Rights Unit, UNAMA, 22 February 2016. UNAMA also documented 1,051 civilian PP-IED casualties (459 killed and 592 injured) for 2015 in its annual report for that year. See, UNAMA “Protection of Civilians Annual Report 2015,” February 2016, p. 38.

[14] UNMAS reports 654 improvised mine casualties for 2014. Email from Habib Khan Zazai, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 17 June 2017.

[15] Data analysis conducted by the Monitor.

[16] Email from Habib Khan Zazai, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 7 May 2017.

[17] In two cases the activity was also recorded as military. Email provided by UNMAS, 7 May 2017; and email from Habib Khan Zazai, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 16 May 2017.

[18] UNAMA, “Protection of Civilians 2014 Mid-Year Report,” July 2014.

[19] Email from Habib Khan Zazai, UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 7 May 2017.

[20] Casualty data provided by UNMAS, in support of DMAC, 7 May 2017.

[21] HI, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 95. The ICRC recorded 707 casualties occurring during cluster munition use between 1980 and 31 December 2006, to which 47 casualties from 2007 to the end of 2015 recorded by MACCA were added. Due to under-reporting, it is likely that the numbers of casualties during use, as well as those caused by unexploded submunitions, were significantly higher.

[22] Casualty data provided by MACCA, 2 May 2016; and by UNMAS, 5 April 2017.