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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Coroner calls for bomb rethink
Chris Muir
Staff Sgt Chris Muir was killed by a cluster "bomblet"
A coroner has called on the Ministry of Defence to review its use of cluster bombs after hearing how a soldier died trying to make an area safe for Iraqi farmers.

Bomb disposal expert Chris Muir, 32, from Romsey, Hampshire, was killed while trying to defuse "bomblets" released by a cluster bomb in southern Iraq on 31 March.

The staff sergeant, from the Army School of Ammunition in Kineton, Warwickshire, had defused more than 100 bomblets when one exploded.

An inquest held in Oxford into his death heard how 30% of cluster bomblets fail to detonate when dropped on sandy ground.

Sergeant Muir had been leading a team of bomb disposal soldiers when Iraqi villagers approached them.

That is one of the problems that you have with cluster bomb munitions - there are so many parts that may go wrong
Defence analyst Paul Beaver
They showed the soldiers where a cluster bomb dropped by US forces had covered their crops with the bomblets.

During the inquest, coroner Nicholas Gardiner heard how an official army investigation found that only 30% of the bomblets had exploded.

Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, Mr Gardiner called on MoD bosses to look for alternatives to the controversial weapon.

Defence analyst Paul Beaver has told the BBC that the 30% figure is typical of cluster bombs

Mr Beaver said: "I'm afraid that the dud rate as it is called, in other words the rate that explosive devices don't work, is usually around 30%.

"It's getting a lot better. Originally, when cluster bombs came out, it was going to be about 50%.

"That is one of the problems that you have with cluster bomb munitions - there are so many parts that may go wrong."

An MoD spokesman said they were unable to respond fully to the coroner's comments until they had received his official letter.

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24 Apr 03  |  England
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