A new database of fatal explosions has revealed that civilians across the Middle East have borne the brunt of deadly bombings worldwide.
More than 335,000 people have been killed or injured in drone and missile strikes, roadside bombings and suicide attacks in the last nine years with about three-quarters of the victims in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Explosive Violence Monitoring Project said the figures were likely to be an underestimate of those affected by war, terrorism and civil strife as they were culled from only English-language media sources and did not include shooting deaths. Those who died from their injuries are also not captured in the data.
“The bigger the event, the more likely it is to be captured,” said Professor Mike Spagat, who was involved in the creation of the database. “When one or two people are killed, hardly anyone runs a story.”
The figures from more than 25,000 bombings on the database show how civilians are most affected by the attacks.
Some 250,000 non-combatants are listed as being killed or injured since October 2010, including about 185,000 from the Middle East and North Africa.
Security forces and armed forces represent just a quarter of those injured or killed in 119 countries, according to the database. Researchers said the civilian toll rose to about 90 per cent of casualties when explosive weapons were used in built-up areas.
The database, which includes details such as the type of weapon used and intended target, suggests that nearly 75,000 people have been killed or injured in more than 2,000 suicide bomb attacks worldwide since the data has been collected.
The database – a collaboration between research charity Action on Armed Violence and data scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London – is in part an effort to counter attempts by governments to use battlefield casualties as a propaganda tool.
It follows similar projects, such as Iraq Body Count, which was founded in 2003 by volunteers to ensure that the human consequences of US-led military intervention in Iraq were not ignored.
Professor Spagat, a Royal Holloway economist who investigates the costs of wars, said the project highlighted the difficulty of securing accurate data on civilian deaths.
He cited the widely repeated figure of 500,000 child deaths during 13 years of Iraq sanctions. The figure was seized on by supporters of the regime of Saddam Hussein to press for them to be lifted.
The figure, from a Unicef survey influenced by the regime, were later described as an “especially masterful fraud” by researchers in an article for the British Medical Journal.