Cluster Bombs


From: Shahzad Ahmad, Pakistan
October 29, 2001

Brutal US Air force have rained cluster bombs in Afghanistan...

Cluster Bombs, are designed to tear people apart via shrapnell, both during an attack, and afterwards used as a tool of mass destruction mainly for civilian population... and most likely victims are children...

About 10% of the fragmentation "bomblets" BY DESIGN, do not explode immediately, but function as land mines, going off when touched later, by children (some of whom may be looking for food aid parcels, which are ironically the same color as the deadly mine-bombs), other civilians carelessly walking around or may be working in their fields and also, animals and birds can also be the victim...

There is an international treaty against land mines, but cluster bombs were excluded for some reason - another example of how definitions are manipulated to permit the continued use of extremely nasty weapons by
the designers and signatories of said treaties.

Can something be done to avert tragedies in this shape??? I think civil society organizations, particularly those working for children and human rights should act fast... And of course let me know if I am of any help

Best wishes and regards.

Shahzad Ahmad

U.S. warns Afghans of yellow cluster bomblets

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - U.S. radio broadcasts into Afghanistan now include a safety warning: airdropped food parcels are square, unexploded cluster bombs are can-shaped, and both are yellow, so it is important to tell them apart.

"Attention people of Afghanistan!" the broadcasts in Persian and Pashto say. "As you may have heard, the Partnership of Nations is dropping yellow Humanitarian Daily Rations. The rations are square-shaped and are packaged in plastic. They are full of good nutritious, Halal food," prepared according to Islamic precepts.

"In areas far from where we are dropping food, we are dropping cluster bombs," the radio spots say, according to a transcript obtained on Monday.

"Although it is unlikely, it is possible that not every bomb will explode on impact. These bombs are a yellow color and are can-shaped ...

"Once again, we will not be using these bombs in areas near where we are dropping relief supplies. Please, please exercise caution when approaching unidentified yellow objects in areas that have been recently bombed."

Cluster bombs are meant to hit so-called soft targets, including people and vehicles. Cluster bombs can contain many bomblets that disperse as they drop, and it is these that might be mistaken for food packages. Bomblets that fail to explode on impact could well blow up if disturbed on the ground.

The ones mentioned in the radio spot are cylindrical, measuring about 2.5 inches by 6.5 inches (6 cm by 16 cm), some with a yellow "tail" on top. Each Humanitarian Daily Ration (HDR) is approximately 7 inches by 13 inches (18 cm by 33 cm).

The radio warning is a departure from other broadcasts in the area delivered in a U.S. operation named "Commando Solo."

Transcripts of these broadcasts released earlier by the Pentagon showed they were aimed at members of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, believed by Washington to be harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda guerrillas.

Washington holds bin Laden responsible for the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the United States that killed some 4,800 people, and blames the Taliban for harboring him.

"When you decide to surrender, approach United States forces with your hands in the air," an earlier radio message said. "Sling your weapons across your back, muzzle towards the ground. Remove your magazine and expel any rounds. Doing this is your only chance of survival."

As of Monday, U.S. military planes had dropped some 960,000 HDR food packages on Afghanistan. The yellow-wrapped 2,000-calorie meatless bundles are a key propaganda component of President George W. Bush's war against terrorism.

The Bush administration has stressed that the United States is not at war with the people of Afghanistan.

As airstrikes continued for a 23rd day on Monday, so did the delivery of airdropped HDRs, Defense Department officials said.

19:51 10-29-01

What is Cluster Bomb?


Types of cluster bombs and their uses

All cluster weapons consist of two primary elements: a container or dispenser; and submunitions, often called bomblets.

The container can be a purpose-constructed bomb casing released from an aircraft, missile, rocket or artillery projectile which carry submunitions towards the target area and incorporate a system to release them close to or above the target area. It may also be a re-useable dispenser attached to an aircraft and designed to release the submunitions close to or above the target area.

These cluster weapons encompass the whole range of submunition types and, especially in the case of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), have the capacity to blanket large areas of territory with bomblets or mines from considerable distances. Submunitions or bomblets are explosive projectiles, which normally incorporate some design feature allowing them to separate and spread as they are dispensed from the container/dispenser in order to achieve the optimum ground coverage. There are four main categories of submunition:

Anti-personnel: normally a fragmentation bomblet with properties similar to a grenade.

Anti-tank/anti-materiel: its effect is to kill or injure the tank crew, and cause the explosion of ammunition
carried in the tank.

Combined Effects Munition (CEM): a CEM submunition typically combines the properties of an anti-tank bomblet with the addition of an incendiary capacity to cover the impact area with burning fragments causing secondary fires especially where fuel is present.

Landmines: submunitions may be anti-tank or antipersonnel mines.

Cluster bombs are one of the cheapest air-delivered weapons available. The cost per American BLU 97/B
bomblet is about US$60. By the end of the Vietnam War the cluster bomb was entrenched in western military thinking.

This was despite the fact that the US was defeated and appeared to have achieved no sustainable battlefield
advantages from using more than 350 million bomblets of many different designs. In the United Kingdom, Hunting Engineering began developing the BL755 cluster bomb during the mid-1960s (a variant of this, the RBL755, was used by the Royal Air Force in Kosovo). By the 1970s all the major international powers had introduced cluster bombs into their armouries. There is no doubt that the US and Russian Federation military and many other forces perceive this kind of weapon technology as central to their existing and future war-fighting strategy.

Failure Rates

The failure of cluster bombs to function as designed is one of the central concerns surrounding the weapon-type. Submunitions are prone to failure for a number of reasons:

Manufacture: damaged or faulty parts being in either the dispenser or one or more bomblet.

Movement and storage: weapons spend long periods of their serviceable life in storage. Depending on the
professionalism of the forces involved, stores will be subject to varying levels of care, preservation and
servicing where errors may be made, leading to eventual failures in use. Transportation may result in

Loading, flight and landings: in wartime, under the pressures of conflict, ground crews make mistakes and
the mechanical stresses of flying in combat increase the potential for failure.

Ground impact: the environment is critical in determining the detonation as designed of all impactinitiated
bomblets. The ground surface must offer sufficient resistance to impact or the bomblet will not detonate. Mud, snow, sand and surface water all lead to substantial numbers of duds and also result in bomblets penetrating ground cover and going sub-surface.

The reliability of cluster bombs is further affected by plant overgrowth and forest. Bomblets strike trees during descent and get caught up. Since there is no impact, the bomblet fails to function. Alternatively, branches and overgrowth reduce the speed of falling bomblets which then fail to detonate on impact.

Recent debate about failure rates of cluster bombs has often missed the point. The most common
misunderstandings are due to political, military and manufacturer statements referring to an overall failure rate for cluster bombs generally or for specific weapon types.

The most commonly quoted failure rate is five per cent. But in March 2000 the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (UNMACC) in Pristina, Kosovo, had more details of estimated failure rates.

In Kosovo, preliminary statistics for the British RBL755 show that the failure rate is about 11-12 per cent. While the final figure will not be known until the last area has been cleared, it is highly likely that it will be at least 10 per cent, if not more.

- From Landmine Action, UK URL:

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