UN in warning over US cluster bombs

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The Independent US

The United Nations sounded the alarm over the use of cluster bombs by American aircraft attacking Afghanistan, saying people in a village in the west had been trapped in their homes by dozens of unexploded orange-coloured "bomblets" littering roads and fields.

UN mine-removal officials have urgently appealed for information from the US military about munitions dropped at the village of Shaker Qala, and other locations. UN spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said: "Vehicles and pushcarts took an unconfirmed number of casualties ... to the main hospital in Herat."

Cluster bombs are dropped in a casing which splits open in mid-air, scattering up to 200 bomblets the size of soft drink cans. They are used to destroy vehicles, to start fires and as an anti-personnel weapon. Sometimes they descend with mini-parachutes designed to prevent explosion on impact, so that they deny the enemy the use of an area such as an airfield. Shaker Qala lies near a military camp.

"The villagers have a lot to be afraid of, because these bomblets, if they did not explode, are very dangerous," said Dan Kelly, manager of a UN mine removal program for Afghanistan. "They can explode if the villagers so much as touch them."