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Cluster munitions

A cluster submunition in Laos

Cluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground.

They open in mid-air and release numerous explosive bomblets or submunitions over a wide area.

A single cluster bomb unit, or CBU, can contain hundreds of submunitions. Most explode immediately, but some (up to 10 per cent by some estimates) don’t.

These bomblets are designed to pierce tank armour and carry more explosives than an anti-personnel landmine. Some look like balls, others are the size and shape of a torch battery and children often play with them, mistaking them for toys. Campaigners say that a third of recorded cluster munition casualties are children.

Cluster munitions contaminate 24 countries and three territories. Currently, the worst affected are Laos, Vietnam, Iraq and Cambodia.

Photo, top [Sean Sutton/MAG]: A cluster bomblet in Lao PDR. More than 270 million 'bombies' were dropped onto the country between 1964 and 1973, with up to 30 per cent failing to detonate. 

See also: 

VIDEO: Surviving the Peace in Laos

PHOTO GALLERY: Worldwide scourge of cluster bombs

STATISTICS: The unexploded ordnance problem in Lao PDR

Other websites:

Cluster Munition Coalition

Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor


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MAG (Mines Advisory Group) saves and improves lives by reducing the devastating effects armed violence and remnants of conflict have on people around the world.
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