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: 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.


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 23 September 2020

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.