From: Andrew Johnson
Date: 2007-08-25 18:00:25
www.guardian.co.uk/a…,,2154380,00.html Army gets new ‘enhanced blast’ weapon to fight TalibanRichard Norton-Taylor
Thursday August 23, 2007
The Guardian British soldiers in Afghanistan are being supplied with a new “super weapon” to attack Taliban fighters more effectively, defence officials said yesterday. The “enhanced blast” weapon is based on thermobaric technology used in the powerful bombs dropped by the Russians to obliterate Grozny, the Chechen capital, and in US “bunker busters”. Defence officials insisted yesterday that the British bombs were different. “They are optimised to create blast [rather than heat]”, one said, adding that it would be misleading to call them “thermobaric”. So-called thermobaric weapons have been used by the US against suspected al-Qaida and Taliban underground bases. Combined heat and pressure kill people over a wide area by sucking the air out of lungs and destroying internal organs. Defence officials described the new weapon as a shoulder-launched “light anti-structure munition”. They said the bombs would be more effective than conventional weapons such as anti-tank missiles which often miss their targets. Even when they hit the damage is limited to a confined area. The new weapons would be more effective against buildings and structures used by the Taliban, they said. Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, described the weapons as a “serious step change” for the British army. He added: “The continuing issue of civilian casualties in Afghanistan has enormous importance in the battle for hearts and minds. If these weapons contribute to the deaths of civilians then a primary purpose of the British deployment is going to be made yet more difficult.” The deployment of the weapons should have been announced to MPs, Sir Menzies said. “We need much more transparency.” The MoD said in a statement that it was buying “a small number of enhanced blast munitions for use on operations”. It added: “These have been procured in full accordance with the UK’s obligations under international humanitarian law. It is important to us that our forces can choose from a wide suite of weaponry so they can respond appropriately and proportionately to any threat.” The weapons would be used “proportionally under specific rules of engagement”, the MoD said. A “legal review” for the weapon – officially the lightweight anti-structure missile (ASM) – considered issues including whether it was prohibited or restricted under international law, whether it could be used discriminately, and whether it would cause unnecessary suffering.