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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e23976. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023976. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

Global comparison of warring groups in 2002-2007: fatalities from targeting civilians vs. fighting battles.

Author information

1
Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom. MJHHicks@aol.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Warring groups that compete to dominate a civilian population confront contending behavioral options: target civilians or battle the enemy. We aimed to describe degrees to which combatant groups concentrated lethal behavior into intentionally targeting civilians as opposed to engaging in battle with opponents in contemporary armed conflict.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

We identified all 226 formally organized state and non-state groups (i.e. actors) that engaged in lethal armed conflict during 2002-2007: 43 state and 183 non-state. We summed civilians killed by an actor's intentional targeting with civilians and combatants killed in battles in which the actor was involved for total fatalities associated with each actor, indicating overall scale of armed conflict. We used a Civilian Targeting Index (CTI), defined as the proportion of total fatalities caused by intentional targeting of civilians, to measure the concentration of lethal behavior into civilian targeting. We report actor-specific findings and four significant trends: 1.) 61% of all 226 actors (95% CI 55% to 67%) refrained from targeting civilians. 2.) Logistic regression showed actors were more likely to have targeted civilians if conflict duration was three or more years rather than one year. 3.) In the 88 actors that targeted civilians, multiple regressions showed an inverse correlation between CTI values and the total number of fatalities. Conflict duration of three or more years was associated with lower CTI values than conflict duration of one year. 4.) When conflict scale and duration were accounted for, state and non-state actors did not differ. We describe civilian targeting by actors in prolonged conflict. We discuss comparable patterns found in nature and interdisciplinary research.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Most warring groups in 2002-2007 did not target civilians. Warring groups that targeted civilians in small-scale, brief conflict concentrated more lethal behavior into targeting civilians, and less into battles, than groups in larger-scale, longer conflict.

PMID:
21915272
PMCID:
PMC3167835
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0023976
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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