2000-2009 | Blair's crimes | Iraq

Scores of Iraqi civilian casualties caused by British cluster weapons

BL755 cluster bomb model - RAF Museum Hendon.
 The Land - CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia.
BL755 cluster bomb model – RAF Museum Hendon.
The Land – CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia.

[ 23 March 2003 ]

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the RAF dropped at least 66 BL755 cluster bombs, about 10% of which may have failed to detonate, leaving a hidden danger for civilians and particularly children, similar to that posed by anti-personnel mines.1 However, it was the extensive use of ground-launched cluster munitions which are likely to have caused the most injuries and deaths. The UK admitted to using a total of 2,100, which amounted to over 100,000 submunitions.

Many Iraqi families will never forget the 23 March, when British artillery fired cluster weapons in neighbourhoods in and surrounding the southern Iraqi city of Basra, killing and injuring scores of civilians, including many children. These high casualties must have been expected as it is near impossible to distinguish between purely military and civilian targets in built-up areas, and the use of such weapons may have breached the Geneva conventions.  Human Rights Watch reported some of the many appalling consequences.

‘At noon on March 23, a cluster strike hit Hay al-Muhandissin al-Kubra (the engineers’ district) while `Abbas Kadhim, 13, was throwing out the garbage. He had acute injuries to his bowel and liver, and a fragment that could not be removed lodged near his heart. On May 4, he was still in Basra’s al-Jumhuriyya Hospital. Three hours later, submunitions blanketed the neighborhood of al-Mishraq al-Jadid about two-and-a-half kilometers (one-and-a-half miles) northeast. Iyad Jassim Ibrahim, a 26-year-old carpenter, was sleeping in the front room of his home when shrapnel injuries caused him to lose consciousness. He later died in surgery. Ten relatives who were sleeping elsewhere in the house suffered shrapnel injuries. Across the street, the cluster strike injured three children.’2

See also 31 March 2003 – British cluster bombs kill 38 and injure 156 Iraqi civilians.


  1. Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Basra Troops Used Cluster Bombs,’ The Guardian, 30 May 2003, accessed online at url https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/may/30/iraq.richardnortontaylor
  2. ‘Coalition Conduct in the Ground War’, Human Rights Watch 2003 accessed online at url https://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/usa1203/5.5.htm

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