Wars Get Bloodier as Conflicts Move Into City Streets

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The number of people killed in wars has surged more than 60 percent in two years even as the incidence of active conflicts declines, with combatants resorting to more extreme violence and battles being fought in city streets.

Fatalities jumped to 180,000 in 2014 from 110,000 in 2012, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said today. Some 70,000 died in Syria alone, where about 200,000 people have been killed since the conflict ignited in 2011.

Incidences of warfare have declined from 63 in 2008 to 42 last year, with hostilities in countries including Colombia and the Philippines seemingly headed for resolution and peace-keeping efforts faring well in sub-Saharan Africa, the IISS said. At the same time, there has been an “inexorable rise in the intensity of violence,” led by jihadist wars across swathes of the Arab world, including Islamic State attacks on settlements such as Mosul and Tikrit, it said.

“Warfare that takes place within cities -- where increasingly warfare is happening -- almost by definition invites prospects of greater concentrations of civilian casualties,” IISS Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk Nigel Inkster said in an interview in London.

The Syrian conflict has spawned 3.4 million refugees, with 1.4 million of them fleeing the country in 2014, the IISS said. In 2013, more than 50 million people were displaced globally, it said, citing United Nations figures, the first time that figure has been breached since World War II.

Iraq produced the second-highest tally of deaths at 18,000, with the South Sudan conflict ranking fifth on 12,000. Gang wars in Mexico accounted for the bulk of 15,000 deaths there, the third-highest global total alongside the rest of Central America, where a similar number died in gang clashes.

Afghanistan accounted for 7,500 deaths and the Ukraine conflict for some 4,500.

“The picture for 2014 was mixed,” Inkster said. “There were tantalizing signs of hope of improvement even as levels of violence continued unabated.”

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