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Egypt denies making 'cluster bombs' for Syria

Military official says Egypt will not be used as a 'hat rack' for accusations that contradict the country's known stance against the ongoing brutality in Syria

Ahram Online, Monday 14 Jan 2013
People gather at a site hit by what activists said was missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, at the souk of Azaz, north of Aleppo, January 13, 2013. ( Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt has quashed a report by Human Rights Watch, claiming that Syria's Al-Assad regime forces had allegedly used cluster bombs against the civilian citizens which were made by an Egyptian company called Sakr Factory for Development Industries.

Major-General Dr. Mahmoud Khalaf, an advisor at Nasser Higher Military Academy, told the Al-Ahram Arabic news website: "It is an easy matter to launch media accusations against Egypt and defame it, but to provide evidence is another issue. Egypt is a main target for many foes in the region, but will never be the 'hat rack' for talking about this kind of internationally band bombs."

Khalaf stressed that Egypt is committed to the international conventions and does not produce nor manufacture this kind of unlawful weapon.

"I'm really surprised about these accusations while Egypt has a declared stance to help the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution against the embattled President Bashar Al-Assad.

"Egypt openly hosts and supports the Syrians opposition, so how can it be accused of supporting this brutal regime? Egypt was the first nation that made initiatives to resolve the conflict. We would be contradicting ourselves."

Syrian forces are using notoriously indiscriminate rockets that contain explosive submunitions.

Evidence indicates that Syrian forces used BM-21 Grad multi-barrel rocket launchers to deliver cluster munitions in attacks near the city of Idlib in December 2012 and in Latamneh, a town northwest of Hama, on January 3, 2013, Human Rights Watch claimed on Sunday.

According to the human rights watchdog, these are the first known instances of Syrian use of ground-based cluster munitions.

No information is available on how or when Syria acquired these cluster munitions, which were made in Egypt. Human Rights Watch and others have previously reported use of air-dropped cluster bombs.

Steve Goose, director of the Arms division at Human Rights Watch, said: "Syria is escalating and expanding its use of cluster munitions, despite international condemnation of its embrace of this banned weapon.

"It is now resorting to a notoriously indiscriminate type of cluster munition that gravely threatens civilian populations."

Based on interviews with witnesses, analysis of approximately a dozen videos posted online by local activists, and photographs taken by an international journalist, Human Rights Watch has concluded that since at least early December Syrian forces have used BM-21 Grad multi-barrel rocket launchers to deliver 122mm cluster munition rockets containing submunitions of the DPICM-type (dual purpose improved conventional munition).

The attack using these cluster munitions on January 3 on the Syrian town of Latamneh killed at least one civilian and wounded 15 others. Another civilian was killed by an unexploded submunition left from the attack.

A fighter for the armed opposition group the Free Syrian Army was also killed on December 5 after handling an unexploded submunition left from an attack two days prior on the village of Banin in Jabal al-Zaweya.

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