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[casi] U.S., Britain Under Fire for Using Cluster Bombs

U.S., Britain Under Fire for Using Cluster Bombs
Thu April 3, 2003 11:38 AM ET
 KUWAIT (Reuters) - The United States admits it has used them in Iraq; Britain says it has them, 
but would not use them in built-up areas; Iraq says they have killed dozens of civilians; and human 
rights groups insist they should be banned.

Cluster bombs are deadly but unpredictable -- each contain over 200 bomblets the size of a drinks 
can which scatter over an area the size of two soccer fields, most exploding on impact and capable 
of tearing through quarter of an inch of steel.

Human rights groups fear they will soon overtake land mines as the most lethal legacy of war. 
Amnesty International said at least five percent are 'dud' bomblets and fail to explode on impact, 
effectively turning them into anti-personnel mines.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf accused U.S. forces on Thursday of dropping 
cluster bombs on the Douri residential area of Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 66.

A day earlier, Dr. Sadid Moussawi, at a hospital in the medieval city of Hilla, 100 km (62 miles) 
south of Baghdad, said 33 Iraqi civilians had been killed and more than 300 wounded in U.S. air 
raids on a residential area using cluster bombs.

"They are using cluster bombs," Moussawi said. "We can tell from the distribution of shrapnel."

The U.S. military said on Wednesday its B-52 bombers had dropped new precision-guided 1,000-pound 
(454 kg) cluster bombs on Iraqi tanks defending Baghdad, but did not say where the attack took 

And they insisted that, while they reserve the right to use these new cluster bombs in combat, they 
would never target civilians with them.

British military officials denied on Thursday media reports they had fired L20 artillery cluster 
shells around the southern city of Basra.

Military spokesman Colonel Chris Vernon said: "We are not using cluster munitions, for obvious 
collateral damage reasons, in and around Basra. It's not worth our while doing that."

The controversial weapons dropped by the U.S. B52s are new and upgraded versions of older 
munitions, adapted to allow for wind and weather conditions to make them more accurate.

After they are dropped, they open up in the air and disperse bomblets by parachute. The bomblet 
packages are designed to land more precisely on intended target areas.


Amnesty International UK demanded on Wednesday a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs in heavily 
populated areas.

"The use of cluster bombs in an attack on a civilian area of Hilla constitutes an indiscriminate 
attack and a grave violation of international humanitarian law," it said in a statement.

Amnesty said the type of cluster bomblets used in the Hilla attack was BLU97 A/B. Each canister 
contains over 200 bomblets.

According to one estimate, U.S. forces dropped over 50 million cluster bombs in the 1991 Gulf War. 
They were also used in air campaigns over Kosovo and Afghanistan. Thousands of unexploded bomblets 
remain in Iraq and Kuwait from the Gulf War.

By the end of last year, close to 2,000 people in Kuwait had died or been seriously maimed by 
bomblets and other explosive leftovers from the war, said the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial 
Fund, which campaigns against land mines.

Richard Lloyd, director of Land mine Action, said dropping cluster bombs on Iraq "contradicts any 
government claim to minimize civilian casualties."

"Cluster weapons are prone to missing their targets and killing civilians.

"There is also the added problem that cluster bombs produce large numbers of unexploded bomblets 
which effectively turn into land mines, ready to detonate on contact, causing death and injury to 
civilians and ground forces," he said.

Andrew Purkis, Chief Executive of the Diana Fund, said: "It's appalling that, despite the 
well-documented problems with cluster weapons, the U.S. and U.K. are dropping them on Iraq."

Copyright Reuters

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