Britain calls Syrian barrel bomb attacks a war crime

LONDON Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:56pm EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain on Monday accused Syria's government of committing "yet another war crime" by spraying civilian areas with barrel bombs - oil drums or cylinders which are packed with explosives and metal fragments and dropped from aircraft.

Human rights groups say the improvised devices have killed hundreds of civilians in the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's government and rebel forces. The United States has also condemned their use.

Syrian authorities say they are battling "armed terrorist groups".

"The use of this deliberately indiscriminate weapon is yet another war crime, and is clearly designed to sow terror and weaken the will of the civilian population," Foreign Secretary William Hague told Britain's parliament.

In December, Russia angered U.S. diplomats by blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned missile and barrel bomb attacks on civilians.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Trevelyan)

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