Human Rights Watch and other groups have previously accused Saudi Arabia of using cluster munitions in Yemen, including in a Jan. 6 strike in Sana, the capital, and have criticized the United States as an accomplice.
In a Jan. 12 letter to President Obama, Megan Burke, the director of the Cluster Munition Coalition, a disarmament group, urged him to “demand that Saudi-led coalition members stop using cluster munitions,” and said the United States “should investigate its own role in the recent strikes.”
John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement: “We have seen the Human Rights Watch report, and are reviewing it. Obviously we remain deeply concerned by reports of harm to civilians and have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to investigate reports of civilian harm.” Saudi officials did not comment, but have denied ordering the use of cluster munitions in Yemen.
Cluster munitions contain submunitions, or bomblets, that disperse widely and kill indiscriminately. Many bomblets can fail to explode, posing a threat to civilians. A 2008 treaty bans the weapons, but major arms suppliers, including the United States and Russia, have not signed it.
Sensitive to the criticism, the United States has severely restricted exports of cluster munitions and has sought to improve technology to minimize collateral damage. Under a 2009 law, only cluster munitions with a failure rate of 1 percent or less can be exported, and they can be used only against “clearly defined military targets,” not “where civilians are known to be present.”
The latest Human Rights Watch report dwelled on what it described as potential violations of that law, based partly on evidence that one type of American cluster bomb sold to the Saudis, the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon, had been used in at least two attacks and had a failure rate exceeding 1 percent. “The evidence raises serious questions about compliance with U.S. cluster munition policy and export rules,” Goose said. 
sAFP adds: A drone attack on two public buildings controlled by Al-Qaeda militants in south Yemen killed three people on Monday, a local official said. The dawn attack also badly damaged the offices of public water and telecommunications utilities in Huta, capital of Lahij province, the official added. No details about the three victims were immediately available.
Witnesses said two drones overflew Huta both before and after the attack. The drone strike came a day after a soldier and a civilian were killed in a suicide car bombing in Huta that a Yemeni military source said targeted an armoured vehicle of the Emirati armed forces. 
The United Arab Emirates has lost more than 70 soldiers in Yemen since the Saudi-led Arab coalition last March launched a military campaign in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government.
Lahij is one of five provinces retaken from Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels last summer by pro-government forces, but security problems persist. Since the coalition intervened in Yemen, Sunni jihadists of Al-Qaeda and also the Islamic State group have exploited the chaos created by the conflict to strengthen their positions in the south.
Al-Qaeda has been well-established for years in south Yemen, but now faces competition from IS which has mounted a series of deadly attacks, particularly in Aden, temporary capital of the internationally recognised government. The United Nations says more than 6,100 people have been killed and 29,000 wounded in Yemen's conflict since the coalition began its raids, about half of them civilians.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 16-Feb-2016