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Campaigners decry 'extensive' cluster bombs use in Syria

A Syrian man shows a cluster bomb, that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions, in Taftanaz on November 9, 2012
A Syrian man shows a cluster bomb, that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions, in the northern Syrian town of Taftanaz, in the Idlib province, on November 9, 2012. The Syrian regime has used cluster munitions "extensively" in the second half of last ye

The Syrian regime has used cluster munitions "extensively" in the second half of last year and first half of this year, causing many civilian casualties, according to a report published Wednesday.

It said at least 165 people were killed or wounded by cluster munitions in Syria last year alone, representing a vast majority of the 190 known casualties from the weapons around the world in 2012.

"Syria used cluster munitions extensively in the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013, causing numerous civilian casualties," according to the Cluster Munition Monitor Report.

Syrian rebel fighters show what appears to be cluster bomblets in Maaret al-Numan on October 19, 2012
Syrian rebel fighters show what appears to be cluster bomblets which they accuse government forces of using in attacks on rebel-held areas in the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on October 19, 2012.

The annual report provides an overview of how countries are implementing the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of the weapons.

"Syria's extensive use of cluster munitions has caused needless civilian casualties," lamented report editor Mary Warenham, of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

But she welcomed the fact that 113 countries had condemned Syria's use of the weapons, indicating "stigma against cluster munitions is strong."

Cluster bombs can be dropped from planes or fired from artillery and spread hundreds of submunitions, or "bomblets", over a wide area.

Syrian rebel fighters show what appears to be a cluster bomb in Maaret al-Numan on October 19, 2012
Syrian rebel fighters show what appears to be a cluster bomb which they accuse government forces of using in attacks on rebel-held areas in the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on October 19, 2012.

As many of these devices fail to explode on impact, countries often have a difficult job clearing their territory of what become de facto landmines.

Furthermore, many bomblets are brightly coloured, attracting children and exploding when they are picked up.

As of July 31, 2013, 112 countries had joined the cluster munition convention, and Wednesday's report hailed the speed at which signatories were destroying their stockpiles -- many of them years in advance of their deadlines.

Netherlands finished destroying its once-massive stockpile in 2012, and along with Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and others destroyed a record 173,973 cluster munitions and 27 million submunitions over the 12-month period, it found.

Cluster bombs in Syria
Graphic showing how cluster munitions work after a new report was published into the use of the weapons in Syria.

Seventeen countries, mainly in Asia and Europe, meanwhile continue to produce cluster munitions or reserve the right to do so in the future, according to the report.

Only three of the producing countries are known to have used such weapons in the past: the United States, Russia and Israel.

Wednesday's report was published ahead of the fourth meeting of state parties to the convention, set to be held in Zambia next week.

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