Signs Syria used cluster bombs - arms monitor group

LONDON Thu Sep 6, 2012 1:22pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Syrian government forces have almost certainly used cluster bombs, which kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end, during their crackdown on a 17-month revolt, a disarmament group said on Thursday citing video and photographic evidence.

The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said it had collected pictures and footage from Syrian activists showing fragments of cluster munitions at least two sites in Syria.

The Damascus government has not signed a convention against the weapons, meaning it would not have broken any international laws by using them, said officials the center.

But many humanitarian groups and governments have condemned the use of the munitions, which spray hundreds of small explosives over wide areas of land, where they can lie undetected for months if not years.

"We think the evidence is compelling that the Syrian government forces have used cluster munitions," Stephen Goose, from both CMC and the campaign group Human Rights Watch, told reporters in London as he launched a report on the use and disposal of the weapons worldwide.

The group could not be 100 percent certain how the bombs were used, as it did not have eye witness accounts of fighting from the sites, it said.

But "cluster munitions are there, there's no question. They're cluster munitions that have been used, they haven't just been pulled out of a warehouse and torn apart with a screwdriver," said Goose.

Damascus has not made any public comment on whether it uses the bombs, CMC said, urging the Damascus government to confirm or deny the reports.

The group cited videos posted online in July showing cluster munition remnants and bomblets in Jabal Shahshabu, a mountainous area near Hama, a flashpoint city in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

CMC activists identified the remnants of a cluster bomb canister and at least 20 unexploded submunitions, it added in its report.

Human Rights Watch also drew attention to the alleged use of cluster weapons in Hama in July.

Other online footage posted in August showed remnants of cluster munitions in the town of Albu Kamal, a battle-hit Syrian town near the border with Iraq, Goose told Reuters.

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