Civilian Casualties in the Colombian Conflict: A New Approach to Human Security

M Spagat, J Restrepo

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper

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We develop a new, quantitative approach to the analysis of human security during armed conflict and apply this methodology to the Colombian conflict, 1988-2003. We consider 21 different attack types (unopposed events) plus clashes between pairs of armed groups. For each event type we determine the number of civilian killings and injuries (casualties), the armed group(s) involved and the population density of the municipalities where these events occur. We also study the dynamics of civilian casualties for the various combinations of event-and-armed-group types. We argue that policy must focus on three very specific circumstances for civilian casualties in the Colombian conflict: massacres by illegal right-wing paramilitaries in rural areas, massacres by left-wing guerrillas in rural areas, and guerrilla bombings, particularly causing injuries, in both the biggest urban areas and rural areas. These events account for almost 40% of all conflict casualties in attacks with known authors. Thus improving rural security is Colombia's central human security issue with urban terrorism becoming an important problem.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2004

Publication series



  • Guerrillas
  • Massacres
  • Attack
  • Conflict
  • Colombia
  • Urban Terrorism
  • Casualties

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