HALO undertakes clearance of thousand-pound aircraft bomb found in Kabul City Centre

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On 14th March 2013 a construction company working for the Ministry of Interior uncovered a thousand pound (five hundred kilogramme) blast bomb in the heart of Kabul City. The bomb, a Russian made FAB500 M54 blast bomb, dated from the Civil War era and had the potential to wreak catastrophic damage and panic within Kabul. The bomb was too dangerous to move but threatened a wide area and so the clearance of the bomb was a major undertaking.

The construction company approached the International Security Assistance Force who, because of its very sensitive location, close to a major mosque and the Afghan parliament, asked HALO to undertake the clearance. Because the bomb lay in a busy city centre area, just one thousand metres from the national parliament it was decided to undertake the disposal in the early hours of the morning when general activity was at its quietest.

The potential destruction of this size of bomb is such that an eight hundred metre safety cordon was needed. This was established by the Afghan police. Of note within the cordon lay:

•The Mosseni Mosque, the main Shia mosque in Kabul

•The Habibi High school, whose alumni include President Karzai, where more than a thousand students study

•The Mosseni University, a major Shia university

•The headquarters of Aryana Television

•and just outside the cordon lies the Afghan Parliament

HALO’s Afghan team have unrivalled experience of dealing with Russian aircraft bombs in Afghanistan, but despite their skills there is always a chance of the bomb exploding. In order to minimize the subsequent damage if the bomb did explode, HALO had to put in protective works which involved loading more than two hundred tonnes of soil around the bomb to absorb any blast. Then a major clearance evacuation exercise carried out by the Afghan National Police cleared the population most at risk.

The clearance operation took place on the night of 17th/18th March 2013, with the fuze being removed with an explosive wrench (a rocket wrench) at 00:10 on the morning of 18th March.

The unfuzed bomb was carried out of the city in the early hours of 18th March and destroyed the next day at around thirty kilometres from the city. Had this bomb exploded in the daytime, thousands of Afghans would have been within its danger area. There is also no doubt that a thousand pound bomb exploding just a thousand metres from the parliament would have caused widespread panic both within the building and across the city. After the bomb had been safely dealt with by HALO, very senior Afghan officials expressed their pride and amazement that with so many foreign military forces in the city that such an important job fell to an Afghan team to address.