The Daily Telegraph

Banned clus­ter bombs dropped by Azer­bai­jan

- By Colin Free­man in Stepanaker­t

Clus­ter mu­ni­tions banned un­der a global treaty have been dropped by Azer­bai­jan in civil­ian ar­eas dur­ing its war with Ar­me­nian forces in the break­away re­pub­lic of NagornoKar­abakh. The Daily Tele­graph saw the mu­ni­tions, which scat­ter bomblets over a wide area, be­ing used dur­ing heavy shelling in Stepanaker­t, the cap­i­tal of Nagorno-karabakh. On a down­town street full of shops and hous­ing blocks, large quan­ti­ties of the bomblets were left scat­tered.

Azer­bai­jan has been drop­ping clus­ter mu­ni­tions in civil­ian ar­eas dur­ing its war with Ar­me­nian forces in the break­away re­pub­lic of Nagorno-karabakh.

The mu­ni­tions, which scat­ter bomblets over a wide area, are banned un­der a global treaty be­cause of the risk they pose to civil­ians, es­pe­cially to chil­dren.

But The Daily Tele­graph saw them be­ing used dur­ing heavy shelling this week­end in the city of Stepanaker­t, the cap­i­tal of Nagorno-karabakh.

On a down­town street full of shops and hous­ing blocks, large quan­ti­ties of the bomblets – small cylin­dri­cal tubes about the size of a film can – were left scat­tered on the con­crete.

Sev­eral had failed to ex­plode, pos­ing an on­go­ing risk to passers-by. The bomblets are con­sid­ered a par­tic­u­lar haz­ard to chil­dren, who of­ten mis­take them for toys and pick them up.

The mu­ni­tions were dropped dur­ing an es­ca­lat­ing bomb­ing cam­paign across Nagorno-karabakh, which broke away from Azer­bai­jan af­ter a bloody civil war in the early Nineties that saw 30,000 peo­ple killed.

Nei­ther Azer­bai­jan nor Ar­me­nia has signed the in­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on Clus­ter Mu­ni­tions, which came into force in 2010 and al­ready has 109 sig­na­to­ries, in­clud­ing Bri­tain.

Both Azer­bai­jan and Ar­me­nia have ac­cused each other of us­ing the weapons in the past.

Tim Ri­p­ley, a de­fence an­a­lyst and writer for Jane’s De­fence Weekly mag­a­zine, told The Daily Tele­graph that the clus­ter bombs ap­peared to be M85 sub-mu­ni­tions. Based on a US de­sign, they are pro­duced by both Is­rael and Turkey, which sup­ply Azer­bai­jan with weapons.

The weapons are some­times de­ployed against tank for­ma­tions, the bomblets be­ing used to tar­get weak points in tanks’ ar­mour. “We can’t be

‘I was at the mar­ket and stopped for a glass of vodka. If I hadn’t, I would have got home as the mis­sile landed’

cer­tain why these were in use or what ex­actly they were be­ing aimed at, but any kind of clus­ter mu­ni­tion be­ing used in an ur­ban area opens the pos­si­bil­ity of civil­ians be­ing in­ad­ver­tently killed or in­jured,” he said.

The con­flict, which is now in its eighth day, in­ten­si­fied over the last two days, with both sides claim­ing that the other is de­lib­er­ately shelling civil­ian ar­eas. Azer­bai­jan said yes­ter­day that Ar­me­nian forces were hit­ting the city of Ganja, with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 330,000, and Ag­jabedi, home to some 38,000, as well as sev­eral other towns.

Shelling also con­tin­ued in Nagorno

Karabakh in Stepanaker­t and the nearby town of Shushi, yes­ter­day, where The Daily Tele­graph saw bod­ies of po­lice­men be­ing re­moved from a mis­sile-hit city cen­tre build­ing.

In Stepanaker­t, Ara­mayis Gas­paryan, 56, a shop­keeper, said he was lucky to be alive af­ter a mis­sile that struck a house next to his premises on Sun­day left a 20ft crater in the ground.

“I missed it by about two minutes,” he said, sur­vey­ing the wreck­age.

“I was out buy­ing sup­plies at the mar­ket and stopped to have a quick glass of vodka with one of the traders – if I hadn’t done, I would have got home just as it landed.”

The two coun­tries have re­ported 266 deaths since the fight­ing erupted, in­clud­ing more than 40 civil­ians, but the real to­tal is ex­pected to be much higher, as both sides are claim­ing to have in­flicted heavy mil­i­tary ca­su­al­ties.

Most of the con­firmed deaths are from Karabakh’s sep­a­ratist forces, who have re­ported more than 220 fa­tal­i­ties in­clud­ing 21 yes­ter­day. Azer­bai­jan has not re­leased any fig­ures for mil­i­tary losses.

Diplo­matic ef­forts to re­solve the con­flict have so far failed, with Il­ham Aliyev, the Azer­bai­jani pres­i­dent, in­sist­ing that Ar­me­nia must pull its troops out of Nagorno-karabakh be­fore any talks can start. The ter­ri­tory is still recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally as part of Azer­bai­jan, which claims its peo­ple were eth­ni­cally cleansed from the area dur­ing the 1988-94 war.

Turkey, a Nato mem­ber, which has been openly sup­port­ing Azer­bai­jan’s ef­forts to re­claim Nagorno-karabakh, was yes­ter­day warned by the or­gan­i­sa­tion to take a more con­struc­tive ap­proach.

Jens Stoltenber­g, the Nato sec­re­tary gen­eral, called on Ankara to use its “con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence” with Azer­bai­jan to calm the con­flict. How­ever, Mev­lut Cavu­soglu, the Turk­ish for­eign min­is­ter, said Nato should con­cen­trate pres­sure on Ar­me­nia to with­draw its forces.

“Ev­ery­one, and es­pe­cially Nato, must make a call for Ar­me­nia to with­draw from these ter­ri­to­ries, in line with in­ter­na­tional laws, UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions and Azer­bai­jan’s ter­ri­to­rial and bor­der in­tegrity,” he said.

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 ??  ?? Left, lo­cals take cover in a base­ment yes­ter­day. Fire­fight­ers ex­tin­guish fires in Stepanaker­t fol­low­ing mis­sile at­tacks, above. Right, an un­ex­ploded clus­ter bomb ly­ing in the street
Left, lo­cals take cover in a base­ment yes­ter­day. Fire­fight­ers ex­tin­guish fires in Stepanaker­t fol­low­ing mis­sile at­tacks, above. Right, an un­ex­ploded clus­ter bomb ly­ing in the street
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