Amnesty: Northern Yemen faces ‘minefield’ of unexploded cluster bombs
A file photo of partially-exploded cluster munitions, half-buried but still active. (Twitter)
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Leading human rights group Amnesty International says its most recent mission to Yemen has found evidence of US, UK and Brazilian cluster munitions used by Saudi forces.
In a statement on Monday, the UK-based rights group said unexploded cluster bombs have turned northern Yemen into “minefields” for civilians.
The watchdog said displaced families, who are returning to their homes since a ceasefire was agreed in March, are at “grave risk” of “serious injury or even death.”
“Even after hostilities have died down, the lives and livelihoods of civilians, including young children, continue to be on the line in Yemen as they return to de facto minefields,” said Amnesty's senior crisis adviser Lama Fakih.
“They cannot live in safety until contaminated areas in and around their homes and fields are identified and cleared of deadly cluster bomb submunitions and other unexploded ordnance,” she said.
The rights group said children were among civilians killed and maimed by such munitions, calling on the international community to help clear contaminated areas.
The statement also called on countries with influence on Saudi Arabia and its allies to have them “stop using cluster munitions, which are internationally banned and inherently indiscriminate.”
Following a 10-day research trip to Sa’da, Hajjah and Sana’a provinces, Amnesty found that 16 civilians, including nine children, had been killed or injured by cluster munitions between July 2015 and April.
On May 6, another rights advocacy group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), confirmed that Saudi Arabia had been using US-supplied cluster bombs near civilian areas in Yemen.
Saudi regime has also recently used US-made cluster bombs in two recent airstrikes on a busy market in Yemen.
On April 7, HRW said its investigators traveled to a town in Yemen’s Hajjah province the day after the attack and identified 97 civilians killed in the strike, including 25 children. The team said another 10 bodies were burned beyond recognition, bringing the total number of victims to 107.
They found fragments of a GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb as well as its guidance equipment supplied by the US, matching an earlier report by British television channel ITV.
The US has backed the Saudi campaign in Yemen. In November last year, Washington approved a USD 1.29 billion rearming program for Riyadh, including thousands of similar bombs.
Saudi Arabia began its military aggression against Yemen on March 26, 2015 in a bid to restore power to Saudi-backed former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children, have been killed and over 16,000 others injured since the onset of the military raids. According to the UN, airstrikes account for 60 percent of the civilians killed so far.