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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2003 at 3:29 PM
This story from Reuters does not indicate the American compnay that makes these death weapons. Wherever it is, it should be razed and salt sowed. This company's owners arexwar criminals.
Cluster Bombs: a Hidden Enemy for Iraqi Children
Fri April 18, 2003 12:14 PM ET
By Rosalind Russell
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The blood from dozens of lesions has seeped through the bandages on Ali Hussein's legs, and flies feast on the uncovered sores on his left foot.
Five days ago, the 13-year-old walked out of his house in the Daura district of Baghdad and stepped on something which exploded.
The blast peppered his legs with shrapnel and injured seven other people, including his brother and cousin.
Ali will probably never know for sure what he trod on. His doctors suspect a U.S. cluster bomb was to blame.
But Doctor Geert Van Moorter, in Iraq for a Belgian medical charity, says that if it was one of the bomblets scattered by a cluster bomb or shell then he won't be the first child in Iraq to be wounded by one -- and is unlikely to be the last.
"I've seen more than a 100 victims of these things, probably half of them children. And they are still arriving at the hospitals. The bombs are still on the ground," Moorter told Reuters.
Each bomb scatters around 200 bomblets the size of a soft drink can over an area the size of two soccer pitches. Most explode on impact. Others land intact, primed to explode if moved.
Moorter, who works for Medical Aid for the Third World, says the bomblets are often delivered by parachute, falling slowly from the air and leaving an enticing-looking green, yellow or white box on the ground.
"The ones that don't explode are called child killers because they make them in bright colors," he adds.
Moorter, who has been in the Iraqi capital for five weeks documenting the impact of the war on the civilian population, says that when the bombs do explode, they cause chaos and panic, and inevitably heavy casualties.
"Your instinct is to run in the opposite direction to the explosion, but then you just run into another or maybe one more behind you. It's terrifying," he adds.
HUNDREDS OF PATIENTS
Doctor Qassim Rahi Essa, director of the Saddam Children's Hospital, now renamed the Central Children's Hospital, says doctors there have seen hundreds of patients like Ali Hussein since U.S.-led air attacks on Baghdad began on March 20.
"We see many injuries to the legs and abdomen from shrapnel, lesions everywhere," he adds. "In many cases, the families have been too frightened until now to leave the house and bring them to the hospital, so we see a lot of infections and amputations."
Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week it was appalled the U.S. military could have dropped cluster bombs in civilian areas of Baghdad, an act it described as a possible violation of international law.
"The Pentagon is crowing about the Air Force sparing civilians and using only precision weapons in Baghdad," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based group.
"That's meaningless if the Army then comes along and indiscriminately batters civilian neighborhoods with cluster munitions," he added.
"Because of their high failure rate, cluster munitions leave large numbers of hazardous, explosive duds to terrorize civilians even after the attack is over," he said.
Lieutenant-Colonel B.P. McCoy of U.S. Marine Regimental Combat Team Seven, now patrolling eastern sections of Baghdad, said his forces had encountered some unexploded bomblets from artillery rounds fired by U.S. forces outside the city.
"We know about it and it's been marked off, engineers are clearing it right now," he told Reuters correspondent Matthew Green. "We're pretty meticulous about where that stuff goes," he said, adding none had been found in the area he now controls.
Before disappearing as Saddam Hussein's rule crumbled last week, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf accused U.S. forces of dropping cluster bombs in Daura, the area where Ali Hussein lives, killing 14 people and wounding 66.
Daura is on the eastern outskirts of Baghdad.
Earlier this month, doctors at a hospital in the medieval city of Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, said 33 Iraqi civilians had been killed and more than 300 wounded in air raids on a residential area using cluster bombs.
The U.S. military admits dropping "precision guided" cluster bombs on Iraqi tanks in the latest conflict, but says it would never target civilians with them.
One spokesman said they were used on some targets "in the vicinity" of Baghdad. "I know that the numbers were very small, particularly with respect to Baghdad," the spokesman added.
But this is not the first time cluster munitions have been used in Iraq. Activists say thousands of unexploded bomblets, which were also used in air campaigns over Kosovo and Afghanistan, remain in Iraq and Kuwait from the 1991 Gulf War.
By the end of last year, close to 2,000 people in Kuwait had died or been seriously maimed by bomblets and other explosive leftovers from that war, according to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which campaigns against land mines.
Like Ali Hussein, those who survived will bear the scars for the rest of their lives.
"Before the war started the Americans said they would come to liberate the Iraqi people so we could walk in peace and joy," Ali says, sitting up in bed and grimacing from the pain of his injuries. "Now we are all suffering." (With additional reporting by Hassan Hafidh and Matthew Green in Baghdad)
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