Cluster Bombs Used in Talbiseh, Homs, Match Type Seen at Russia's Syrian Airbase

Today’s Human Rights Watch report Russia/Syria: Daily Cluster Munition Attacks documents further use of cluster munitions in the Syria conflict, following earlier reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on the use of cluster munitions in Syria. These reports triggered denials from the Russian Defence Ministry, who denied such munitions were even present at their airbase in Syria. This contradicted images published by Spuntik, Russian Today, and the Russian Defence Ministry showing cluster munitions at their airbase in Syria. While attempts have been made to claim the bombs pictured were high explosive bombs, all available evidence points to them being RBK-500 series cluster munitions, and a recent bombing from Talbiseh, Homs, provides further evidence linking cluster bombs dropped on Syrian towns to the type seen at Russia’s airbase in Syria.

On February 7th 2016 the Talbisah Media Center posted the following video online showing cluster submunitions and a cluster bomb casing they claim had been dropped by Russian aircraft:

This video features two types of submunitions, the spherical ShOAB-0.5, and the AO-2.5RTM, the designation of which can be clearly seen in the video:

AO 2.5RTM

Both these submunitions were identified in the CITeam report on Russian cluster bombs in Syria as types seen at Russia’s airbase in Syria, and it’s notable that while the ShOAB-0.5 has been recorded as being used before in Syria, the AO-2.5RTM has not, only the very similar AO-2.5RT variant.

The video from Talbiseh also features a cluster bomb casing, and Talbisah Media Center provided Bellingcat with further images of the cluster bomb casing. These images provided some interesting extra details not visible in the video.

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When compared to images of the bombs identified as cluster munitions at Russia’s airbase in Syria there are some clear similarities (source):

AO-2.5RTM

Both hooks are visible, as is the red plate above the fuze (absent in the Talbiseh photograph after activating), and a further structure above that. This combination of unusual features match perfectly, as does the tail section

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Tail fins

It’s clear there are many matches between the cluster bomb used in Talbiseh, and the cluster bombs seen at Russia’s airbase, adding to the growing body of evidence that Russia is deploying cluster bombs in Syria, despite their strong and repeated denials.