Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Amnesty links US to Yemen attack

Sydney Morning Herald

LONDON: A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was used in an attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International has said.

The London-based rights group released photographs yesterday that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the attack on December 17 on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen's southern Abyan province.

''Amnesty International is gravely concerned by evidence that cluster munitions appear to have been used in Yemen,'' said Mike Lewis, the group's arms control researcher. ''Cluster munitions have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years afterwards.''

Philip Luther, deputy director of the group's Middle East and North Africa program, said: ''A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful.''

Yemen's defence ministry had claimed responsibility for the attack without mentioning a US role, saying up to 30 militants had been killed at an alleged al-Qaeda training camp. But a local official said 49 civilians, including 23 children and 17 women, were killed ''indiscriminately.''

Amnesty said that a Yemeni parliamentary committee reported in February that in addition to 14 alleged al-Qaeda militants, 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children, were killed in the attack.

''The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions,'' Mr Luther said.

The group said photographs it had obtained showed damaged remains of the BGM-109D Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

''This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry a payload of 166 cluster sub-munitions [bomblets] which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150 metres away,'' a statement by the group said. ''An incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.''

The Yemen parliamentary committee had said when it visited the site that ''all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture,'' the group said.

Amnesty said it had requested information about the attack from the Pentagon, but had not yet received a response. It had not released the photographs earlier in order to ascertain their authenticity and give the US time to respond.

The US and Yemen have not yet signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty that is designed to ban such weapons and is due to come into force on August 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment