Friday, Apr 04, 2003
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A child, reportedly hurt in a U.S. cluster bomb blast, lies on the floor of hospital due to a lack of beds in Hilla, Iraq, on Wednesday. AFP
The U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said it was investigating reports that cluster bombs killed at least 11 civilians in Hillah, a city 100 km south of Baghdad and the scene of heavy fighting.The military acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that cluster bombs were being deployed. Human rights groups have called for their ban, and their use is particularly sensitive because of the stated aim of the U.S.-led force to minimise civilian casualties.
``Cluster bombs have a very bad reputation, which they deserve,'' said a bomb disposal expert .A Central Command spokesman, Navy Capt. Frank Thorp, said the munitions were playing a tactical role in the battlefield and worked well against large targets, such as an airfield. ``It's a very effective weapon,'' he said.
While protecting civilians is important, he said, ``let's be very clear, weapons are designed for war. There is no weapon that doesn't cause harm except for the leaflets we have been dropping for the past month.''
In Baghdad, the Iraqi Health Minister, Omid Medhat Mubarak, accused U.S. and British forces were targeting civilians with cluster bombs. A single cluster bomb can scatter hundreds of tiny bomblets over an area the size of a football field.These bomblets can be packed in rocket-fired artillery shells or dropped while housed in a shell that looks like a regular bomb, but opens to release scores of parachute-borne bomblets. AP
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