Tuesday, May 20, 2008

U.S. Cluster Bombs in Afghanistan Ruin Childhood Dreams

Afghan teenage cluster bomb victim battling for ban

by Robin Millard, AFP
Tue May 20, 2:22 AM ET

DUBLIN (AFP) - Afghan teenager Soraj Ghulam Habib, whose legs were blown off by a cluster bomb, is campaigning hard for a ban on such lethal munitions that would spare other children from his tragic fate.

A 10-year-old boy when the unexploded bomblet left him close to death, Habib, now 17 and wheelchair-bound, is in Dublin to press officials from 109 countries who have gathered to thrash out a landmark ban on cluster bombs.

The conference, due to conclude on May 30, is aiming for a wide-ranging international pact that would completely eliminate the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions among signatories.

Habib's childhood curiosity with a funny-looking object left him a whisker from death, yet another innocent civilian victim of deadly cluster bombs.

"One day, I went out with some of my cousins for a picnic in a public park," the softly-spoken teenager, from Herat province in north-western Afghanistan, told AFP through a Dari-speaking interpreter.

"It was the beginning of New Year in Afghanistan and on the way home, on the sidewalk, I saw a yellow can. I picked it up and wanted to open it. When I threw it down, it exploded."

The same colour as the emergency food parcels air-dropped by US planes, the yellow can was in fact a BLU-97, a sub-munition dropped in a cluster bomb during the US aerial bombing campaign to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

"It's a dangerous weapon but it looks nice, it looks very interesting to a child," he said. Read On

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