Kabul to probe health impact of US ‘mother of all bombs’ as complaints rise

Special Kabul to probe health impact of US ‘mother of all bombs’ as complaints rise
A group gathers around a GBU-43B, or massive ordnance air blast (MOAB) weapon, on display at the Air Force Armament Museum on Eglin Air Force Base. (File/AP)
Updated 06 December 2019

Kabul to probe health impact of US ‘mother of all bombs’ as complaints rise

Kabul to probe health impact of US ‘mother of all bombs’ as complaints rise

KABUL: The Afghan government is to investigate claims that America’s dropping of the “mother of all bombs” in eastern Nangarhar more than two years ago has caused diseases among the local population and affected crops, officials have revealed.

The US target had been described as a Daesh hideout in the Mohmand Dara area of Achin district, but the bombing was criticized by many Afghans, including former President Hamid Karzai, who accused Washington of treating Afghanistan as a testing ground for its weapons.

Officially known as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), the bomb was used for the first time in Afghanistan in April 2017. When developed, it was said to be the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal.

Following sustained operations in the region by joint Afghan and US forces, as well as attacks from the Taliban, hundreds of Daesh affiliates have reportedly been killed and hundreds of others have surrendered to the government, allowing villagers displaced by the fighting to return.

However, the returnees and those who were present at the time the bomb was dropped, have complained that it harmed their health, causing conditions such as skin disease, loss of memory, respiratory illness, and malformed birth of some children. The bomb had reportedly also contaminated soil and affected agriculture.

Although an Afghan parliamentary delegation visited Nangarhar province to investigate the aftermath of the impact just days after the bomb was dropped, no further probes could take place due to the unstable security situation in the region.

But now, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health has announced it will send researchers and doctors to the bombing site and to hospitals in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar.

A report by Afghanistan’s Tolo News channel featured Mohmand Dara villagers voicing their health-related concerns. The TV station said that according to experts, anyone within 300 meters of the explosion would have been evaporated, while those in a 1 km radius from ground zero would have been rendered deaf.

“The government evacuated the people (before the bomb was dropped), but when we came back, we saw that the houses were destroyed,” resident Mohammadullah told Tolo News.

Another local, Pacha Shinwari, said: “You can see that the stones can be broken easily, the plants are dry, the trees are dry, the nearby houses are all destroyed, 40 or 50 of them.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s adviser and state minister for human rights and international relations, Sima Samar, confirmed to the television channel that the use of the MOAB in Nangarhar has had long-term effects on residents.

Retired Afghan army general, Atiqullah Akmarkhail, said such bombs had a long-lasting impact. “They have three-stage effects: They impact the eyes; people will feel irritation in their eyes. Second, they impact the inner organs of those who breathe the air where it was used. They also impact pregnant women and newborn babies,” he told Arab News.