The war in Ukraine and extremist violence contributed to a spike in the death toll from the world’s most brutal conflicts last year, analysts say.
More than 163,000 people were killed in the 20 deadliest conflicts of 2014, a 28% increase over 2013, according to a study conducted by the Project for the Study of the 21st Century, a think tank based in London and Washington.
“Assessing casualty figures in conflicts is notoriously difficult, and many of the figures we are looking at here are probably underestimates,” said Peter Apps, a Reuters global defense correspondent who serves as the project’s executive director. “The important thing, however, is that when you compare like with like data for 2014 and 2013, you get a very significant increase. That says something very concerning.”
The deadliest wars were in Syria and Iraq, where the extremist group Islamic State seized large amounts of territory last year, unleashing bloody attacks on its rivals as well as civilians.
Syria alone accounted for at least 76,000 deaths. The toll in Iraq was 21,000, a sharp increase over 2013, the project found.
Radical Islamist groups also contributed to high tolls in several other countries, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria and a number of Al Qaeda affiliates, the study noted.
In Ukraine, which was largely at peace in 2013, fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists killed at least 4,700 people last year, more than the wars in Somalia or Libya.
Analysts used data from a variety of sources, including the United Nations, governments and nongovernmental groups.
For the war in Syria, they used figures collected by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in London with contacts inside the country. For the Iraq conflict, they relied on the Iraq Body Count project, which compiles information from news reports, hospitals, morgues and other sources.
“Although 2014 was definitely worse than the previous year, the overall trend still seems to be toward the spike in conflict being contained in a relatively small number of countries,” Apps said in a statement accompanying the findings. “Across most of the rest of the world, there is some evidence that violence is actually continuing to go down.”
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