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Cluster bombs by Syria?

Accusation by human rights group

– The Syrian regime was accused Sunday of dropping cluster bombs – indiscriminate scattershot munitions banned by most nations – in a new sign of desperation and disregard for its own people.

The international group Human Rights Watch cited amateur video and testimony from the front lines in making the allegation against the government of President Bashar Assad.

Syria and Turkey, meanwhile, declared their skies off-limits to each other amid mounting cross-border tensions in Syria’s 19-month-old conflict, now a civil war.

Turkey is an outspoken backer of rebels trying to oust Assad.

Human Rights Watch said new amateur videos and interviews with residents suggests the Syrian air force has dropped cluster bombs in the past week, mainly along a main north-south highway in western Syria that runs through Maaret al-Numan, a town captured by rebels after fierce fighting.

Cluster bombs open in flight, scattering smaller bomblets over a wide area. Many of the bomblets don’t explode immediately, posing a threat to civilians long afterward.

Steve Goose, an arms expert for the human rights group in New York, said most nations have already banned cluster bombs and that many of those who haven’t, including the United States, have said they would do so soon.

“These are weapons that are really beyond the pale,” Goose said in a phone interview.

The Syrian government had no immediate comment.

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