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Amnesty warns Yemen civilians face cluster-bomb 'minefields'

London-based watchdog said families were at "grave risk" of "serious injury and death" as they return to northern Yemen
Civilians, including children, are at risk from unexploded cluster bombs dropped on northern Yemen. (AFP)

Unexploded cluster bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition on rebel-held northern Yemen have turned areas into "minefields" for civilians, Amnesty International said on Monday.

The rights group said children were among civilians "killed and maimed" by such munitions, urging international assistance to clear contaminated areas and the coalition to stop using such bombs.

"Countries with influence should urge the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces to stop using cluster munitions, which are internationally banned and inherently indiscriminate," it said in a statement.

The coalition launched a military campaign against Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels last March after they seized several provinces of Yemen, including Sanaa, and closed in on President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in his refuge in the southern city of Aden.

But coalition warplanes have been accused by rights groups of causing heavy civilian losses and using cluster bombs.   

The London-based watchdog said that families were at "grave risk" of "serious injury and death" as they return to northern Yemen after a ceasefire was agreed in March.

"Even after hostilities have died down, the lives and livelihoods of civilians, including young children, continue to be on the line in Yemen as they return to de facto minefields," said Amnesty's senior crisis adviser Lama Fakih.

"They cannot live in safety until contaminated areas in and around their homes and fields are identified and cleared of deadly cluster bomb … munitions and other unexploded ordnance," she said.

Amnesty said its most recent mission to northern Yemen found evidence of US, UK and Brazilian cluster munitions used by the coalition.

The mission documented 10 new cases in which 16 civilians were killed or injured by cluster munitions between July 2015 and April, Amnesty said.

Fighting has killed more than 6,400 people, displaced about 2.8 million and left 82 percent of Yemen's population in need of aid, the UN says.

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