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Russia accused of using cluster munitions in Syria

Published 23/12/2015

Syrian refugee Hind Salem, who fled with her family from Palmyra, because of Russian air strikes (AP)
Syrian refugee Hind Salem, who fled with her family from Palmyra, because of Russian air strikes (AP)

Russia has been accused of using cluster munitions and unguided bombs on civilian areas in Syria in attacks that have killed hundreds of people in the past few months.

A report by Amnesty International said there has been a surge in reports of cluster munitions dropped in areas targeted by Russian forces since Moscow formally joined the conflict on September 30.

Cluster munitions are by nature indiscriminate and often leave unexploded bomblets on the ground. These can maim and kill civilians long after the end of hostilities.

The report focuses on six attacks in Homs, Idlib and Aleppo provinces between September and November which it says killed at least 200 civilians.

It denounced Russia's "shameful failure" to acknowledge civilian killings.

"Some Russian air strikes appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme.

"Such attacks may amount to war crimes."

The accusations follow a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch last week which said cluster munitions were used on at least 20 occasions since Syria and Russia began their joint offensive.

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