Amnesty International accused the Egyptian military of using cluster munitions in its operations against militants in North Sinai in a statement published on Wednesday.
The rights organization said its experts analyzed a video, which was published on Armed Forces spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai’s official Twitter account on February 21, and concluded that their analysis “proves beyond doubt that banned cluster munitions have been used in recent airstrikes in North Sinai.”
The Wednesday statement explained that what the Egyptian Armed Forces claimed in the video were improvised explosive devices planted by “terrorist elements” are actually unexploded MK 118 cluster munitions, which could only have been dropped by Egyptian military jets.
The video in question bares clues that the bomb was used in recent operations, say Amnesty International’s experts. “The MK 118 cluster submunition shown in the video reveals that it is untampered with and in good condition despite its age, with the serial number still clearly visible on its side. This suggests that the submunition has been deployed in recent operations.”
“This new video confirms our worst fears, that the Egyptian Armed Forces are using cluster bombs in North Sinai,” affirmed Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Wednesday statement. “This shows a horrifying disregard for human life and international law,” she added.
Over 100 countries are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been in force since 2010 and prohibits the use, production, stockpiling or transfer of cluster munitions. Egypt, however, is not party to the convention, nor a signatory on its treaty.
“Cluster bombs are among the vilest weapons in modern warfare, inherently indiscriminate and capable of killing and maiming civilians for years after their deployment,” noted Bounaim.
Amnesty International also said that a previous video, released by the Egyptian military on February 9, showed CBU-87 Combined Effects Weapons in a statement released on February 14. The video features these weapons, which Amnesty International claimed are US-made cluster bombs, being loaded onto fighter jets as part of Operation Sinai 2018, which the Egyptian Armed Forces launched on February 9 of this year, with the aim of “ending terrorism” in the northern and central portions of the Sinai peninsula.
Operation Sinai 2018 has resulted in the death of dozens of militants, the destruction of hundreds of their hideouts, as well as the confiscation of their weapons and key communication equipment, according to several statements released by Rifai since the campaign was launched in early February.
Amnesty International also alluded to a third video published by Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News Agency. According to Amaq, the video, which was released in July of last year, displayed an F16 fighter jet dropping two cluster bombs. The rights organization claimed its experts analysed the footage and corroborated Amaq’s conclusion, confirming that the video had not been tampered with and adding that the F16 jets shown in the footage had the Egyptian flag on their tails.
“The two cluster bombs dropped were of the type Mk 20 Rockeyes dispensers that dispense the same type of 247 Mk 118 cluster submunitions,” the Amnesty International statement read.
As of 2007, Egypt had 321,000 submunitions in Rockeye bombs stockpiled, according to United States Department of Defense data that features in a cluster munition survey produced by Human Rights Watch and and is cited in Amnesty International’s statement.