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How Many Civilians Were Killed By Cluster Bombs?

Wednesday 7th May 2003

The Pentagon says 1: Iraq Body Count says at least 200.

An independent research organisation has published detailed evidence of at least 200 civilians killed by coalition cluster bombs since the start of the Iraq War (full details at

The Pentagon has admitted only one recorded case of a civilian death from cluster munitions in Iraq this year. This extraordinarily low number has been greeted with widespread incredulity. Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth has condemned it as a "whitewash". Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation to be held into coalition use of cluster munitions. So far, however, such critics have not been able to draw on a firm counter-estimate of the numbers so far recorded killed.

To begin to fill this informational vacuum an international research team yesterday published the world's first comprehensive numerical analysis of cluster-related deaths.

Since the start of hostilities Iraq Body Count has been building up a meticulous and exhaustive compilation of every reported civilian death in Iraq caused by coalition military action. It has based its work on corroborated reports in key media sources published worldwide. The research team has updated its estimates on a daily basis by adding to a constantly growing on-line data-base ( which now reports over 100 separate incidents involving up to 2700 civilian deaths in total.

Among these incidents are included reliable reports of at least 200 civilian deaths due to cluster bombs, with up to a further 172 deaths which were probably caused by cluster bombs. Of these 372 deaths, 147 have been caused by detonation of unexploded or "dud" munitions, with around half this number being children.

Many of the press reports from which the data have been extracted contain graphic eyewitness details of injuries and mutilations confirmed by doctors as being typical of cluster bombs, including dismemberment and decapitation, and the riddling of the body with deep shrapnel wounds.

Authors John Sloboda and Hamit Dardagan said "Public concern about the possible misuse of these savagely indiscriminate weapons is rapidly mounting. Our research reveals the shocking disparity between what the world's press has already reported and what the Pentagon is prepared to admit. Those who are genuinely concerned about civilian casualties, and interested in minimising them, can no longer plead ignorance."

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