(Q24N) Death tolls have declined in world conflict zones but civilians remain pawns of armed groups, increasingly in urban areas, says the London-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Its annual report highlighted problems in Central America.

Syria remains the world’s “most lethal” region, with 50,000 deaths in 2016. the report concluded.

“Less attention” by the international community and media is Mexico, following closely to Syria, with 25,000 deaths,  and 16,000 across El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, write IISS authors.

The report continues with overall deaths from 37 armed conflicts worldwide amounted to 157,000 in 2016, down from 180,000 in 2014.

IISS director John Chipman said nearly one in two conflicts mentioned in the study were located in urban areas, in contrast to past decades when insurgents operated from rural areas.

One of the report’s authors, William Reno, said an increasing portion of wars involved state failure and “fragmented social environments.”

With respect to Central America, the report says the deaths recorded in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala had occurred often amid “governance vacuums.”

Cartels had clashed with one another over drug-trafficking and other criminal assets and battles with state security forces had become increasingly “fierce.”

Referring to El Salvador, the IISS said gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 had collectively between 54,000 and 85,000 members spread across urban areas.

Regional governments had created hybrid forces comprising police and soldiers. Gangs had killed 46 police and 27 military personnel, most of them off duty.

Armed Conflict Survey, May 2017

The Armed Conflict Survey provides in-depth analysis of the political, military and humanitarian dimensions of all major armed conflicts, as well as data on fatalities, refugees and internally displaced persons. Compiled by the IISS, publisher of The Military Balance, it is the standard reference work on contemporary conflict.

The book assesses key developments in 37 high-, medium- and low-intensity conflicts, including those in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Israel–Palestine, Southern Thailand, Colombia and Ukraine.


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