ACLED classifies Explosions/Remote violence events as asymmetric violent events aimed at creating asymmetrical conflict dynamics by preventing the target from responding. A variety of tactics are considered Explosions/Remote violence including bombs, grenades, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), artillery fire or shelling, missile attacks, heavy machine gun fire, air or drone strikes, chemical weapons, and suicide bombings. Explosions/Remote violence can be perpetrated by any armed actor, including non-state armed groups, governments, or external forces and can be levied against any type of actor, both armed and unarmed. If Explosions/Remote violence occurs during an ongoing battle, it is recorded as a part of the battle, rather than as a separate event in order to avoid double-counting (for more on this, see the ACLED codebook).

Conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have been characterized by the highest levels of Explosions/Remote violence events in the ACLED dataset — meaning that these types of tactics are used singularly, outside of the context of a ground battle, most prevalently. Since 2017, the makeup of these Explosions/Remote violence events has differed substantially across these three countries. While conventional conflicts between warring parties often feature Explosions/Remote violence, not all conventional wars see the same types of Explosions/Remote violence tactics being used singularly. Evidence from these three countries demonstrates that different types of conflict actors perpetrate different types of violence employing these tactics.

As of March 2019, Iraq’s Explosions/Remote violence conflict landscape — events in which these tactics are used singularly, outside of the context of a ground battle — has been dominated by events involving solely remote explosives or IEDs. Over the past two years, Iraq’s most active rebel group, the Islamic State (IS), has used these tactics quite consistently in its campaign against civilians and the Iraqi government. IS’s use of such tactics follows a decline in the number of air/drone strike events against the group by foreign forces. Air/drone strike events were the most common form of Explosions/Remote violence events through December 2017. The capture of IS’s last remaining strongholds in the country at this time led to a steep drop-off in the number of air/drone strike events in the country and a subsequent surge in IS’s use of remote explosives and IEDs singularly.

In Syria, the majority of Explosions/Remote violence events involve shelling/artillery/missile attacks. Through 2017, the number of air/drone strikes and on-the-ground Explosions/Remote violence events were roughly equal. Since mid-2018, however, there has been a decline in the number of air/drone strike events (which has coincided with a decline in foreign actor activity).

A similar drop-off in events involving air or drone strikes alone has recently happened in Yemen as well, as a result of peace negotiations concluded in 2018. In both Syria and Yemen, an increase in other forms of Explosions/Remote violence events has followed the decline in air/drone strike events.

These trends suggest that different types of Explosions/Remote violence tactics may be used differently by different actors and for different purposes. An analysis of the rise and fall of different types of Explosions/Remote violence over time — and their relationship to each other — may be helpful in identifying the stage and trajectory of a conflict.

© 2019 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.

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Explosions/Remote Violence in War
Melissa Pavlik
Melissa Pavlik
Research Analyst
Melissa Pavlik is a Research Analyst at ACLED studying overarching trends of armed conflict across and within ACLED’s regions of study. She has degrees in Statistics and Political Science from the University of Chicago, and is currently studying in the War Studies Department at King’s College London. Her research focus include violent non-state actors and the intersection between the international political economy and political violence.
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