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Unexploded cluster bombs pose threat to civilians

DAWN (Pakistan) November 15, 2001
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca   18 November 2001

The civilian lives across Afghanistan are under serious threat because of the highly volatile unexploded cluster bombs, dropped by the US warplanes during the last 40 days.

Nearly 5,000 cluster bomblets may be littered across Afghanistan, posing a serious threat to civilian lives, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday.

According to information obtained by the HRW from US military sources, as of Nov 8, the US had used 350 cluster bombs in the air campaign in Afghanistan. Of these, 150 were the CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition; the remaining 200 were the CBU-103, a recent variant of the CBU-87 with the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit added to make it more accurate.

Each CBU-87 and CBU-103 releases 202 BLU-97 bomblets over a wide area, dimensions of which are dependent on several factors such as release altitude, spin rate of the munition, and wind speed. This means that 70,700 BLU-97 bomblets have been dispersed from these 350 cluster bombs.

The BLU-97 bomblets have a high initial failure rate, meaning an unacceptably large proportion fail to explode on contact as designed. These unexploded duds remain highly unstable, capable of exploding on the slightest disturbance or contact.

They become, in effect, antipersonnel landmines. BLU-97 duds have led to high casualty rates in Iraq and Yugoslavia following the conflicts there.

According to a press release, senior researcher of the arms division of HRW, Mark Hizany, said the unexploded bomblets have in effect become antipersonnel landmines. "They pose an extreme hazard to civilians, not just now but for years to come."

Human Rights Watch repeated its calls for the United States to immediately stop using cluster bombs in Afghanistan.

Using a seven per cent initial failure rate for the BLU-97 bomblet, an estimated 4,949 hazardous duds may now be littering areas in Afghanistan where these cluster munitions have been dropped.

Historically, the failure rate of submunitions can range from 5 to 30 per cent depending on the type of munition used and other operational and environmental conditions.

The Human Rights Watch obtained the 7 per cent failure rate for BLU-97 bomblets from statistical reports by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre in Kosovo on unexploded ordnance and mine clearance operations in Kosovo since June 1999.

The HRW believes that the fluid situation in Afghanistan dictates that coalition air forces immediately discontinue use of cluster munitions.


Copyright, Dawn, 2001. For fair use only. 

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/DAW111B.html