Saudi Use of Washington’s Bombs Constitutes a War Crime

October 13th, 2019 - by Win Without War & Amnesty International & The Guardian

Washington’s Conveyor Belt of Bombs

Win Without War

(October 11, 2019) — A cluster bomb — a type of munition invented by the Nazis to kill as many as possible — was used in coalition strike on farm that killed Raja, and her three siblings in Yemen.

Their small bodies had become a jumble of severed limbs — “the flesh of this person was mixed with that person” — according to their family. [1] They were Yemeni kids: Hussein, Hamza and Ayman Ali, ages twelve, nine and six respectively. [2]

The manufacturer of this massacre: US defense contractor Raytheon’s 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II bomb, launched by the Saudi & UAE coalition at the Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi family’s home.

I know this is graphic. I know it’s hard to read. But this is the horrific reality of the US’s conveyor belt of bombs directly into the Yemen, and we CANNOT shy away from confronting and ending it.

Right now there is a critical time-sensitive opening to ban the sales of bombs just like this one, and end military support for the war in Yemen — and it’s a bill that Trump can’t veto, at least not easily. 

The sick business of war is in FULL SWING with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and it’s having devastating consequences for the people of Yemen.

Outdated cluster munitions, so disastrous for civilians that over 100 countries have banned their use, are still being used by the Saudi and Emirati coalition in Yemen. One of these bombs — made in a factory in Tennessee — tore 14-year-old Raja Hamid Yahya al-Oud’s body in half, staining the sand around her black. [3]

It’s no surprise why this continues: Donald Trump has done everything possible to shield Saudi Arabia and the UAE from accountability for the coalition’s war crimes in Yemen. FOUR out of his five vetoes have been bipartisan bills seeking to stop US. weapons sales and US military support for the Saudi and UAE coalition-led war in Yemen.

But Trump can’t veto the National Defense Authorization Act without putting other Department of Defense must-haves at risk. 

We are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the House-passed amendments to stop US bomb sales and military assistance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE are included in the final bill, and we need your support to ensure we can keep doing this critical work.

ACTION: Add your name to demand an end to US. bomb sales and military assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen as part of the must-pass defense bill. Thank you for working for peace,

Stephen and the Win Without War team 


[1] Amnesty International’s interview with victims’ family, “Yemen: US-made bomb used in deadly air strike on civilians
[2] Amnesty International, “Yemen: entire family killed by US-supplied bomb — new findings
[3] The Guardian, “A father’s grief and the Made in USA bomb dropped in Yemen

Yemen: Entire Family Killed by US-supplied Bomb — New Findings

Amnesty International

(September 26, 2019) — A Saudi/Emirati Coalition Airstrike used a US-made, 500-pound Paveway Weapon to attack the village of Warzan. Three children were among those killed. “We buried them the same day because they had turned into severed limbs,” said a family relative.

The UN Human Rights Council is set to vote on further investigations into the Yemen attacks. Meanwhile, says Tasha Mohamed, “The UK and France remain unmoved by the pain and chaos their arms are wreaking on the civilian population.”

(September 26, 2019) — A US-manufactured bomb was used in a Saudi and Emirati-led airstrike on a residential home in Yemen, which killed six civilians — three of them children — Amnesty International revealed today, after detailed research into the attack.

The airstrike, which had previously gone uninvestigated, took place in Warzan village in the Yemeni governorate of Ta’iz on 28 June. 

The attack wiped out the entire al-Kindi family — from the 62-year-old father and grandfather Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi, to his youngest grandchild, Ayman, aged six (see full family details below). 

Amnesty spoke to two of the family’s relatives and two local residents, and also analysed satellite imagery and photo and video materials from the aftermath to corroborate eyewitness reports.

Analysing photos of weapon remnants dug from the site by relatives, Amnesty’s arms expert used product data stencilled on the guidance fin to identify the weapon as a 500-pound, laser-guided GBU-12 Paveway II, manufactured by US arms company Raytheon. This is the latest evidence that the USA is supplying weapons being used by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in Yemeni attacks amounting to serious violations of international humanitarian law.

US cluster bombs are designed to release a swarm of “bomblets” to maximize the death toll over a wide area.

One relative of the al-Kindi family told Amnesty:

“We buried them the same day because they had turned into severed limbs. There were no corpses left to examine. The flesh of this person was mixed with that person. They were wrapped up [with blankets] and taken away.”

One eyewitness to the attack told Amnesty:

“I was around three minutes’ walk away working at a neighbouring farm. I heard the plane hovering and I saw the bomb as it dropped towards the house. I was next to the house when the second bomb fell … and I got down onto the ground.”

Witnesses told Amnesty there were no fighters or military targets in the vicinity of the house at the time of the attack. The closest possible military target to the airstrike was a Huthi operations room on Hayel Saeed Farm almost a mile away, but this had stopped operating more than two years previously after being hit by coalition airstrikes.

A second airstrike occurred at the al-Kindi house approximately 15 minutes after the first, indicating that the pilot wanted to completely destroy the property. The house was struck again five days later while relatives of the family were inspecting it — no-one was injured in this attack.

Since March 2015, Amnesty’s researchers have investigated dozens of airstrikes in Yemen and repeatedly found and identified remnants of US-manufactured munitions.

According to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency, in 2015 the US Government authorised the sale of 6,120 Paveway guided bombs to Saudi Arabia. In May this year, President Trump bypassed the US Congress to authorise further sales of Paveways to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Rasha Mohamed, Amnesty International’s Yemen Researcher, said: 

“This attack highlights, yet again, the dire need for a comprehensive embargo on all weapons that could be used by any of the warring parties in Yemen. Despite the slew of evidence that the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has time and again committed serious violations of international law, including possible war crimes, the USA and other arms-supplying countries such as the UK and France remain unmoved by the pain and chaos their arms are wreaking on the civilian population. 

“Arms-supplying states cannot bury their heads in the sand and pretend they do not know of the risks associated with arms transfers to parties to this conflict who have been systematically violating international humanitarian law. 

“By knowingly supplying the means by which the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition repeatedly violates international human rights and international humanitarian law, the USA — along with the UK and France — share responsibility for these violations.” 

Six Family Members Killed

The six members of the al-Kindi family killed in the 28 June airstrike were: Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi (aged 62), his wife Hayat Abdu Seif Mohamed (50), their two children — Ahmed Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi (28) and Hussein Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi (12), and Abdelqawi and Hayat’s two grandchildren — Hamza Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi (nine) and Ayman Ali Abdelqawi Abdu Ahmed al-Kindi (six). Abdelqawi and his son Ahmed had both worked as construction contractors. 

Group of Eminent Experts

A recent report by the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, established by the UN Human Rights Council, concluded that the repeated patterns of coalition airstrikes in the country raise “a serious doubt about whether the targeting process adopted by the coalition complied with [the] fundamental principles of international humanitarian law”.

The report also documents a range of serious violations and abuses by all sides to the conflict in Yemen — a conflict which the UN says will have killed over 233,000 Yemenis by the end of 2019, both as a result of the fighting and the humanitarian crisis. The UN Human Rights Council is slated to vote on the renewal of the Group of Eminent Experts today or tomorrow. Amnesty, in coalition with other organisations, is urging countries to support the Human Rights Council resolution extending and enhancing the group’s mandate.

A Father’s Grief and the ‘Made in USA’ Bomb Dropped in Yemen

Bethan McKernan / The Guardian

SAAD (October 11, 2019) — The last day of 14-year-old Raja Hamid Yahya al-Oud’s life began like any other.

She got up early along with the rest of the family because there was always a lot of work to do on the farm in the spring planting season. White drones had intermittently circled above their cornfields for the last few weeks, but there was no sign of them that morning.

Raja and her mother, Amira, liked to take breaks under the acacia trees about 200 metres from the house. At 4pm, this was to become her final resting place.

The plane was flying too high for them to hear it coming but Amira said the sound the CBU-52 B/B cluster bomb made as it rained 220 deadly submunitions on their heads will stay with her forever. Some exploded on impact while others, still armed, fell into the fields.

Screaming for her daughter, Amira saw Raja’s twisted body under a small tree. Her jaw and entire right side had been ripped apart and blood had already dyed the sand around her black. A neighbour, Hamoud Mohammed al-Ghar, dodged the remaining submunitions to pick Raja up and then ran with her to the nearest road to find a car to take her to hospital. “I knew the girl was already dead,” he said. “But I had to try.” The drones circled ahead the entire time.

Raja died on 23 March 2018. But the story of the bomb that is believed to have killed her stretches back decades earlier. Using the serial number and other technical information on the CBU-52 B/B’s outer shell, the Guardian traced the munition from its manufacture in Milan, Tennessee, to Sahar farms, in north Yemen, where it ended a child’s life.

Cluster munitions were invented by the Nazis and had become a standard weapon of war across the world by the 1970s, designed to kill as many people as possible.

Eleven children were killed in a Saudi airstrike targeting a school in Yemen.

They usually consist of a hollow shell filled with hundreds of submunitions that disperse over an area as big as several football pitches as it falls through the air. They either explode on impact or are triggered when moved or stepped on, firing hundreds of fragments of metal that travel at the speed of bullets.

The submunitions remain a threat for decades once deployed and those from older designs often resemble shiny silver orbs around the size of a tennis ball, making unexploded ordnance especially attractive to curious children. Hundreds of people worldwide die each year after coming into contact with unexploded cluster bombs, with about 300 casualties a year in Vietnam alone.

In 2008 an international treaty called the convention on cluster munitions severely limiting the use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs was adopted by 30 countries. By 2018 it had been signed by 120 states. The US, which sells arms to Saudi-led forces fighting in Yemen, was not one of them.

“Cluster munitions went through a proportionality test to measure military advantages gained versus civilian harm of their use,” said Rawan Shaif, the lead Yemen researcher at the open source investigative organisation Bellingcat, of the Geneva conventions relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict. “There’s no military advantage in using a cluster munition in a farm, unless your aim is to make that area uninhabitable for generations of civilians and military alike.”

The cluster bomb that killed Raja was manufactured at the Milan Army Ammunition Plant in 1977. The large site, just north of Jackson in west Tennessee, encompasses 231 miles (372km) of roads and 88 miles (142km) of railways and is nicknamed Bullet Town by residents.

Milan’s fortunes have risen and fallen with that of the plant: work there has ebbed and flowed with America’s wars. Most of its ordnance and mortar production lines have been moved to Iowa by American Ordnance, the private contractor operating the plant. In 2013 it employed just 113 people, down from a peak of 10,000 during the second world war. By 1977 thousands of cluster bombs like the one that killed Raja were rolling off the production line.

The US no longer manufactures CBU-52s: it has long since upgraded to “smart” computer-guided cluster bombs with supposedly more accurate arming and targeting systems. One possible reason a 1977 bomb found its way to Sahar farms, in Yemen, in 2018 is because the US has such a large stockpile of the weapons.

While other countries were adopting the international convention on cluster munitions in 2008, the Pentagon defended its use of them as a “military necessity”. However, it conceded to international criticism by instituting a policy to reduce the failure rate of the munitions — ie the amount of unexploded ordnance left behind — to 1% or less after 2018, although that policy was actually scrapped by Donald Trump 2017.

In the interim, a good way of reducing the stockpile of outdated weapons — and making some money — was to sell them. Data from 2017 showed the US still had some 2.2m cluster bombs in its arsenal.

“Many nations, including the US, Germany, and Switzerland, have taken steps in recent years to bolster both their pre-export due diligence, and their post-delivery verification methods,” said Nic Jenzen-Jones, the director of Armament Research Services, a specialist technical intelligence consultancy. “Nonetheless, there are a lot of arms that have been exported prior to these changes that muddy the waters in terms of how researchers can track and trace items of interest.”

The US has been selling weapons, planes, tanks and ordnance to Saudi Arabia for decades and permitting its arms manufacturers to export: it has licensed $138bn (£112bn) to the kingdom in the last 10 years alone, according to research by the US thinktank the Center for International Policy.

Officials under Barack Obama worried that sales, after Riyadh launched its air campaign against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in March 2015, could amount to complicity in war crimes under international laws that could name the US as a co-belligerent, but in 2016 went ahead with a $1.3bn sale anyway.

Bomb sales continue: Donald Trump, who has made Saudi Arabia the cornerstone of his Middle East policy, overrode objections from Congress in March to complete the sale of more than $8bn worth of weapons to Riyadh, its coalition partner the United Arab Emirates coalition partner, and Jordan.

Fragments of US bomb found after deadly attack in Yemen.

The total extent of export licences to the kingdom is not known, and neither is it known when the bomb that killed Raja was sold. The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, the world’s most extensive record, yielded no results: it contains just a fraction of true sales, as pre-digital record-keeping was poor and states cite national security concerns to avoid disclosing records.

It is possible the CBU could have been sold by the US years ago to a third party state and then sold on again to Saudi Arabia: cluster bomb sales to Riyadh were officially stopped in 2016. The US Department of Defense and the state department did not respond to requests for information. Such inquiries are usually met with no comment.

Washington says US supplies of “smart weapons” are helping the coalition reduce civilian casualties — but as Raja’s death shows, old US-made dumb bombs are still being used.

What we do know is Sahar farms was bombed on 23 March last year after the area had been surveyed by drones for weeks. “We are just farmers,” Hamid Yahya al-Oud, Raja’s father, said over tea in his living room, surrounded by his six remaining children. “Look outside. There’s our well, there’s our goats. Why would there be Houthis here?”

At the time of publication, the coalition had not responded to the Guardian’s requests for comment.

Sahar farms lies in the countryside of Saada in north Yemen, the Houthi heartland on Saudi Arabia’s border. The whole province is littered with bombed-out buildings, bridges, roads and unexploded ordnance. The green cigar-like shell of the CBU-52 B/B cluster bomb is one of the most common of those dropped on the area, according to Abdullah Umayyad, the manager of the UN-funded Yemen Executive Mine Action Centre (Yemac) field office in Saada.

The coalition rarely acknowledges civilian casualties from airstrikes, making justice or even simple answers for affected families about why they were targeted almost impossible.

“It took two days to clear out Sahar farms after that strike,” said Umayyad. “The work is very dangerous. Three men have been killed in clearance operations here in Saada. My old boss lost his hands, eyes and nose after trying to disarm a cluster bomb submunition last year.”

Despite condemnation from human rights groups over airstrikes in Yemen, Yemac’s records suggest more cluster bombs are being dropped on Saada than ever: at least 147 cluster munitions were recovered in the province in the first six months of 2019, up on 122 in the same period of 2018.

Its record-keeping, however, is spotty and individual items are not catalogued. Questions of who, what and why when it comes to bombings fall outside its remit: the political fallout could impact the team’s ability to work across the war-torn country.

US-made bombs rain down on north Yemen with almost total impunity.

At Sahar farms, the drones have been back in the last two months. “They already killed my daughter,” said Hamid. “Now they’re back for more.”

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