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Russian-design cluster munitions leave first responders overwhelmed

Hundreds of cluster munitions are landing in Syrian villages, towns […]

11 October 2015

Hundreds of cluster munitions are landing in Syrian villages, towns and fields as a result of Russian and regime air and rocket attacks that are overwhelming Civil Defense Forces, Wasim al-Adel, an Idlib-based journalist with Marra Today, told Syria Direct on Sunday.

“Cluster bombs can cover such a huge swath of territory–first responders just don’t have enough trained techs to find and gather them all up,” explained al-Adel.

While an international ban on the munitions does exist, neither Syria nor Russia are signatories, according to Human Rights Watch.

Sometimes cluster munitions explode on impact, other times the palm-sized bomblets malfunction, lying days, weeks or even years in the earth, “until a farmer hits one with a plow and it explodes … we’ve lost farmers, women and children–ten alone in Masaran in rural Idlib–because we don’t have the people, the resources or the training for a comprehensive clean up,” said al-Adel.

“You must be extremely careful when handling an unexploded cluster bomb,” a volunteer bomb disposal technician told pro-opposition al-Marra Today on Saturday, as he clenched a reportedly Russian-dropped bomblet in a vice, which he claimed to have rendered inoperable by twisting open with a monkey wrench. 

“Be extremely careful with these,” says a volunteer bomb disposal technician, as he examines an unexploded cluster munition.

“Once you gather them up, you can drop the bombs in a deep, unused well or just put them in a pile and blow them up or shoot them from afar,” he explained.

Cluster munitions come in many shapes, sizes and applications. The cluster munition photographed above, for example, is a Russian-designed AO-2.5RT high-explosive anti-personnel bomblet, first documented in Syria in mid-2013. A single jet-delivered bomb, the Russian-manufactured RBK 500, for example, opens mid-air to release 108 2.5kg AO-2.5RT submunitions, each with a 20m kill radius. The destructive footprint of the subsequent rain of explosives is approximately 6,400m2 -or about the size of a FIFA-regulation soccer field.

The submunition’s casing is designed to break apart into many small fragments, killing or maiming anyone within 20m of bomblet’s blast. 

At least 11 different types of cluster bombs have been documented in Syria to date. A number of countries have provided the Syrian regime with cluster bombs and associated dispersal munitions, including Egypt. Video and photographic evidence of both Russian airstrikes and unexploded ordnance, however, suggests Russia is currently fielding its own cluster bombs inside Syria.


– Photo courtesy of Al-Marra Today.

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