Yemen: A place where cluster bombs hang off trees

Unexploded cluster bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition on northern Yemen have turned areas into "minefields" according to Amnesty International.

Photo by: Amnesty International
Photo by: Amnesty International

11-year-old Walid lost three of his fingers and broke his jaw when an unexploded cluster bomb was detonated.

"I started to take the red string with my right hand and pull. Samih pulled on the other end of it and then it went off and I fell back. Samih was hurt in his stomach and he had fallen down too. We didn’t know it would hurt us."

These are the heartwrenching words of 11-year-old Walid, who is among nine unsuspecting children, wounded by cluster bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition on Northern Yemen.

The offensive was launched against Houthi rebels last year.

Amnesty International has recorded similar interviews with several children and they all follow a similar pattern: kids, attracted by the toy-like appearance of cluster bombs, pick it up and are either killed or severely wounded.

The organisation has sounded an alarm and is calling on the international community to urgently help clear the 'minefield' that Northern Yemen has now become, posing a grave threat to the residents returning to the area since a ceasefire was announced in March this year.

In a statement, Amnesty said, "Countries with influence should urge the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces to stop using cluster munitions, which are internationally banned and inherently indiscriminate."

The rights group cited the horrific accounts of Walid (children's names changed for privacy) to plead for international assistance in neutralising the area.

Walid lost three of his fingers and broke his jaw while his eight-year-old brother was killed.

According to a goat herder in the Hajjah governorate, 'bombs are hanging off trees' in his area.

Amnesty says its most recent mission to northern Yemen found evidence that the cluster munitions used by the coalition were from the US, UK and Brazil.

The mission documented 10 new cases in which 16 civilians were killed or injured by cluster munitions between July 2015 and April, Amnesty said.

Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area which sometimes fail to explode and are difficult to locate and remove, killing and maiming civilians long after conflicts end.

The BL-755 bomb, manufactured in Britain in the 1970s, was located by Amnesty in Hayran in northern Yemen near the Saudi border.

Amnesty said this was the first confirmed use of British-manufactured cluster munitions since the adoption of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs.

The bomb, designed to break into more than 2,000 fragments, is known to be in the stockpiles of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to Amnesty.

In response to the report, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says that there is currently no evidence that Saudi Arabia had used cluster munitions, but has assured the British parliament that an 'investigation had been launched' to verify Amnesty's report.

The UN says fighting has killed more than 6,400 people, displaced about 2.8 million and left 82 percent of Yemen's population in need of aid.

TRTWorld and agencies