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.

Bosnia Muslims mourn their dead 25 years after Srebrenica massacre

Updated 18 min 28 sec ago

Bosnia Muslims mourn their dead 25 years after Srebrenica massacre

  • At 1100 GMT, a ceremony laying to rest the remains of nine victims identified over the past year began at the memorial cemetery in Potocari
  • On July 11, 1995, after capturing the ill-fated town, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in a few days

SREBRENICA: Bosnian Muslims began marking the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on Saturday, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II, with the memorial ceremony sharply reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Proceedings got underway in the morning with many mourners braving the tighter restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.
At 1100 GMT, a ceremony laying to rest the remains of nine victims identified over the past year began at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, a village just outside Srebrenica that served as the base for the UN protection force during the conflict.
On July 11, 1995, after capturing the ill-fated town, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in a few days.
Sehad Hasanovic, 27, has a two-year-old daughter — the same age he was when he lost his father in the violence.
“It’s difficult when you see someone calling their father and you don’t have one,” Hasanovic said in tears, not dissuaded from attending the commemorations in spite of the virus.
His father, Semso, “left to go into the forest and never returned. Only a few bones have been found,” said Hasanovic.
Like his brother Sefik and father Sevko, Semso was killed when Bosnian Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic entered the Srebrenica enclave before systematically massacring Bosnian men and adolescents.
“The husbands of my four sisters were killed,” said Ifeta Hasanovic, 48, whose husband Hasib was one of the nine victims whose remains have been identified since July 2019.
“My brother was killed, so was his son. My mother-in-law lost another son as well as her husband.”
The episode — labelled as genocide by two international courts — came at the end of a 1992-1995 war between Bosnia’s Croats, Muslims and Serbs that claimed some 100,000 lives.
So far, the remains of nearly 6,900 victims have been found and identified from more than 80 mass graves.
Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic, still revered as a hero by many Serbs, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. He is awaiting the decision on his appeal.
Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb wartime political leader, was also sentenced to life in prison in The Hague.
The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of the Bosnian conflict to be described as genocide by the international community.
And while for Bosnian Muslims recognizing the scale of the atrocity is a necessity for lasting peace, for most Serbs — leaders and laypeople in both Bosnia and Serbia — the use of the word genocide remains unacceptable.
In the run-up to the anniversary, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described Srebrenica as “something that we should not and cannot be proud of,” but he has never publicly uttered the word “genocide.”
Several thousand Serbs and Muslims live side by side in impoverished Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia with just a few shops in its center.
On Friday, the town’s Serbian mayor Mladen Grujicic — who was elected in 2016 after a campaign based on genocide denial — said that “there is new evidence every day that denies the current presentation of everything that has happened.”
Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik has also described the massacre as a “myth.”
But on Friday, the Muslim member of Bosnia’s joint presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, said: “We will tirelessly insist on the truth, on justice and on the need to try all those who have committed this crime.”
“We will fight against those who deny the genocide and glorify its perpetrators,” he said at the memorial center where he attended a collective prayer.
In order to avoid large crowds on Saturday, organizers have invited people to visit the memorial center over the whole month of July.
A number of different exhibitions are on display, including paintings by Bosnian artist Safet Zec.
Another installation, entitled “Why Aren’t You Here?” by US-Bosnian artist Aida Sehovic, comprises more than 8,000 cups of coffee spread out on the cemetery’s lawn.
“We still haven’t answered the question why they are no longer here,” she told AFP.
“How could this have happened in the heart of Europe, that people were killed in such a terrible way in a UN protected area? Not to mention the fact that the genocide is still being denied.”