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.


New Filipino military chief vows to enforce controversial anti-terror law

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay. (Supplied)
Updated 03 August 2020

New Filipino military chief vows to enforce controversial anti-terror law

  • Gapay said his priority would be to bring an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, based primarily in rural areas

MANILA: The new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, on Monday assumed office with a vow to enforce the country’s recently enacted anti-terrorism law.
The controversial legislation took effect last month, despite legal challenges at the Supreme Court to stop its implementation.
It criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.” The new law also grants authorities broad powers to wiretap and tag individuals and groups as terrorists and detain them without charge for up to 24 days.
“We will capitalize on this very good anti-terror law. It is comprehensive, it is proactive, and it is geared to prevent occurrence of terroristic acts,” Gapay said in his first speech as army chief.
He called on Filipinos to support the military because beside dealing with terrorism and communist insurgency, the country now faced an unseen enemy in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The army, he said, was helping the government contain the deadly virus which had infected more than 100,000 people in the Philippines and claimed at least 2,100 lives.

We will capitalize on this very good anti-terror law. It is comprehensive, it is proactive, and it is geared to prevent occurrence of terroristic acts.

Lieutenant General Gilbert I. Gapay, Commanding general, Philippine Army

Gapay said his priority would be to bring an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, based primarily in rural areas — and local terrorist groups — Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and factions of the Daulah Islamiyah — that operate mainly in the country’s south.
“There will be no let up as we continue to be at the forefront confronting all these threats. We are trained for this but still we need the support of other agencies; we need the support of our fellow Filipinos,” Gapay added.
He said the army would continue to collaborate with partner agencies and foreign counterparts in addressing domestic and regional threats, adding that it would suggest provisions to the rules and regulations of the new law to enhance intelligence sharing and strengthen maritime security to deter foreign terrorists from entering the country through its porous sea borders.
Prior to his appointment, Gapay, who replaces the retiring Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., served as the 61st army commander.