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US drops the weapon that packs an 'atomic' punch

AMERICA has stepped up the pressure on the Taliban using bombs with the same destructive force as a small thermo-nuclear device.
The 15,000lb BLU-82, or Daisy-Cutter high-blast bomb, the world's largest conventional device, was developed during the Vietnam War. The Americans are thought to have used only one of the devices so far against the Taliban.

It is so large that it is normally dropped from a C130 transport aircraft. A 4ft-long detonation rod, which emerges from the 17ft-long bomb after it is dropped, releases a cloud of inflammable ammonium nitrate, aluminium dust and polystyrene slurry.

This is then ignited by a second detonator, scorching the surrounding area, consuming oxygen and creating a shock wave and vacuum pressure that destroys the internal organs of anyone within range. The bomb has the ability to clear a three-mile path through a minefield.

Like the B52 bombers dropping "long sticks" of bombs, commonly described as carpet bombing, the Daisy Cutter was used to great effect against Iraq's Republican Guard during the Gulf war.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Russians developed a hand-held launcher to fire similar bombs into the caves of the Mujahideen, who called it the "Satan Stick".

Its use against the Taliban frontlines coincides with an escalation of attacks on the caves and tunnels where Osama bin Laden and his terrorist colleagues are thought to hide.

The increased number of special forces on the ground has provided better intelligence allowing the US aircraft to attack the caves, Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, said on his way back from a visit to the region.

Russia has also provided intelligence on the caves that were used by the Afghan forces and the mujahideen during the Soviet occupation, defence officials said.

The bombing also includes the use of the 5,000lb GBU-28 "Deep Throat" bunker-buster which burrows down through as much as 20ft of rock before exploding inside the cave. Its "smart" fuse can tell the difference between rock, concrete, earth and air

The Northern Alliance said yesterday that its forces had captured three northern towns during pre-dawn bombing raids.

"We attacked while the Americans were bombing," said Ashraf Nadeem, a spokesman. "It was not only us who killed. It was mostly the Americans."

He said 200 Taliban fighters died. Despite the claims, the Alliance has yet to make a significant advance on the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif.



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