Islamic State fighters have used ground-fired cluster munitions in at least one location in northern Syria in recent weeks, Human Rights Watch said today.
In a statement released earlier, the organisation said: “The use of cluster munitions by non-state actors such as the Islamic State shows the urgent need for Syria to join the ban on cluster munitions, and destroy their stockpiles.”
Syrian government forces have used cluster munitions since June 2012 despite widespread international condemnation. An attack on August 21 is the most recent report of government use. More than 140 countries condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions in statements and resolutions, including 51 that have not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
“Any use of cluster munitions deserves condemnation, but the best response is for all nations to join the treaty banning them and work collectively to rid the world of these weapons,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).
IS forces used cluster munitions on July 12 and August 14 during fighting around the Syrian town of Ayn Al-Arab, also known as Kobani in Kurdish, in the Aleppo governorate near Syria’s northern border with Turkey. The area is under the control of Kurdish forces from the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
A senior Kurdish official from the town told HRW that four Kurdish combatants and an 11-year-old child had been killed in the two attacks, which also wounded another child. This is believed to be the first known use of cluster munitions by the group.
The Syrian government has used at least 249 cluster munitions since mid-2012 in 10 of the country’s 14 governorates, HRW said. The actual number is thought to be much higher as not all instances of use have been recorded.