- The Nato force in Kosovo was urged yesterday to take
a more active role in clearing the estimated 14,000 unexploded cluster
bombs lying around in the Yugoslav province which are largely responsible
for killing or maiming up to two civilians every day.
- The cluster bombs, dropped by US, British and other
Nato aircraft, are scattered all over the province. But Kfor, the Nato-led
peacekeeping force, has a policy of only clearing mines and other devices,
such as cluster bombs, from routes that are needed for operational reasons
and is not involved in locating and removing un-exploded munitions throughout
- Lieutenant-Colonel John Flanagan, Australian programme
manager at the United Nations mine action co-ordination centre in Pristina,
which has been given the job of clearing the cluster bombs, said yesterday:
"It's not part of Kfor policy to clear up all the munitions, but
I have just 16 experts, four teams of four, trying to solve this problem."
- Nato, on the other hand, had a huge bomb clearance capability,
with specialist teams attached to each brigade area. US, British and
other Nato aircraft were responsible for launching 355 cluster-bomb attacks
on Serb forces in Kosovo during the 78-day air campaign. Officially it
is acknowledged that between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the bombs
would have failed to detonate, although unofficial estimates put it higher.
- Each cluster-bomb canister has 147 bomblets. Both RAF
Harrier GR7s and Tornado GR1s dropped cluster bombs during the air campaign,
targeting Serb military personnel and vehicle compounds.
- Although the civilian casualty toll from incidents involving
unexploded munitions has dropped from five a day in the first month after
the air campaign ended to the present one or two a day, Colonel Flanagan
said he needed Nato's help to meet the challenge of making Kosovo safe
for the population, especially in rural areas.
- "Any help we could get from Nato would be appreciated,
but at the moment Kfor is not addressing the problem unless there is
an emergency humanitarian or operational reason," Colonel Flanagan
- He said children were being maimed because the cluster
bombs looked like toys and were "extremely sensitive".
- He added: "If you pick up a cluster bomb it will
explode, it's even more dangerous than a mine. Anything can detonate a
- Colonel Flanagan said Nato had supplied the co-ordinates
for the cluster-bomb attacks which had helped his teams to trace some
of the unexploded bomblets. However, not all the co-ordinates had proved
accurate, and it had been difficult to search through the undergrowth
for signs of the deadly munitions, he said.
- Time was also running out, because once the winter snow
arrived in October it would be difficult to continue the search. His
aim was to clear as many as possible and then to mark out other suspected
locations before winter. "It's achievable if we have every assistance,
and all the Kfor multinational brigades have unexploded cluster bombs
in their areas," he said.
- Colonel Flanagan has appealed for more help from Britain,
which has already donated £2 million towards mine clearance in
Kosovo. The Department for International Development has sent money, equipment,
personnel and a rapid response team to Kosovo, working in tandem with
the Halo Trust, a private company that employs former military mine-clearing
- A spokeswoman for the department said that the latest
request "for equipment" had only just arrived and was now being
the daily Glas Javnosti has reported that more than 200 villages and 41
Serb churches have been destroyed in Kosovo since Kfor peacekeepers entered
the province in June. The paper quoted Bishop Atanasije Rakita as alleging
that ethnic Albanians in Kosovo were "systematically destroying"
Serb villages and places of worship.