UN says cluster bombs found in Lanka

A report from a U.N. demining expert says unexploded cluster munitions have been found in northern Sri Lanka, appearing to confirm, for the first time, that they were used in that country’s long civil war.

The revelation is likely to add momentum to calls for an international investigation into possible war crimes stemming from the bloody final months of fighting in the quarter century civil war that ended in May 2009. The government has repeatedly denied using cluster munitions during the final months of fighting.

The ordnance, which sprays dozens of small bomblets, is controversial when used in heavily populated areas like northern Sri Lanka because it can’t be precisely targeted and poses greater risk of hitting noncombatants. The bomblets that fail to detonate often kill civilians long after fighting ends.

An email obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday from a top U.N. demining expert said unexploded cluster bomblets were discovered in the Puthukudiyiruppu area, where a girl was killed last month and her sister injured as they tried to pry apart an explosive device they had found to sell for scrap metal.

The e-mail, which was dated Tuesday, said photographs showed cluster bomblets in the area where the children had been collecting scrap and in their house in the Puthukudiyiruppu region.

Tens of thousands of civilians and Tamil Tiger rebel fighters had been trapped in a tiny area of Puthukudiyiruppu as government forces attacked the area during the final weeks of the war. (Courtesy The Associated Press)