Middle East

Cluster bombs killed over 400 people in 2015, campaigners say

Dozens of cluster bomblets collected in a field in a town in southern Idlib, Syria Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Children are especially vulnerable to cluster bombs, attracted by their toy-like appearance

More than 400 people were killed by cluster bombs in 2015, with most in Syria, Yemen and Ukraine, according to a Cluster Munition Coalition report.

All three are countries where the weapon is not banned. Civilians made up 97% of the death toll.

More than a third of the casualties recorded from 2010-2015 were children, who are at particular risk.

Cluster bombs scatter explosives across a wide area and often fail to detonate on impact.

The report found that 248 deaths were recorded in Syria, followed by 104 in Yemen and 19 in Ukraine.

None of these countries are signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of the weapons.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cluster bomblets are gathered in Idlib, Syria, to be transported to a safe area for detonation

The Syrian military has denied possessing or using cluster munitions.

In December 2015 the Russian Defence Ministry, which supports the Syrian government, also insisted that "Russian aviation does not use [cluster munitions]".

But the report suggests that despite Russia's denial "there is compelling evidence that it is using them" in Syria.

In 2008 the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which addresses the humanitarian consequences and harm caused by such weapons, was adopted by more than 100 countries, which agreed to a complete ban.

More than 20,300 cluster munition casualties have been documented globally since the 1960s, although the actual number of casualties is likely to be much higher.

What are cluster bombs?

Cluster munitions pose a significant threat to civilians because of both their impact at the time of use and their deadly legacy.

Launched from the ground or dropped from the air, cluster munitions consist of containers that open and disperse submunitions indiscriminately over a wide area.

Many explosive submunitions, also known as bomblets, fail to detonate as designed, becoming landmines that kill and maim indiscriminately.

They are difficult to locate and remove, posing a danger to civilians long after conflicts end.

Children are particularly at risk, as they can be attracted to the bombs' toy-like appearance.

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