Middle East

HRW says Syria using powerful new cluster munitions

A civil defence member walks at the site of an explosion near the Iranian cultural centre in the southern suburbs of Beirut February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIRUT: Syria's government forces have begun using a powerful type of cluster munition rocket not previously seen in the country's conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group said photos taken after a recent attack in the central city of Hama suggested the government had deployed 300 mm 9M55K surface-to-surface rockets, a Russian weapon that carries dozens of submunitions.

It identified the rockets as having being used on February 12 and 13 in attacks that killed at least two civilians and wounded at least 10 others.

The group warned that the rocket is three times as large as other cluster munitions currently in use by Syrian government forces, and said the weapon would add to the country's civilian death toll.

"It is appalling that Syrian government forces are still using banned cluster munitions on their people," said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch.

"Cluster bombs are killing Syrian civilians now and threatening Syrians for generations to come."

Cluster bombs have been banned by 113 countries around the world.

They are particularly controversial because they are indiscriminate and the bomblets they carry are often widely dispersed and continue to maim and kill civilians long after the initial attack.

More than 140,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict in the country began in March 2011.





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