New US Thermobaric Bombs
Now In Afghanistan

(AFP) - The US military is about to use a powerful new weapon in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, a "thermobaric" bomb which can suck oxygen out of the cavernous hideouts where Osama bin Laden and remnants of his al-Qaeda terror network may be holed up.

The laser-guided weapons contain an explosive that can penetrate deep into caves, as the hunt for bin Laden enters a new, more perilous stage, top Pentagon officials said Friday.

Officials said 10 of the newly designed bombs were being shipped to Afghanistan after a successful test last week in Nevada.

Each thermobaric bomb -- also called fuel-air explosives -- contains two explosive devices and a highly flammable chemical that sends a deadly shock wave through enclosed spaces such as caves and tunnels without collapsing them.

The weapons consist of a container of fuel and two explosive charges. When the first charge detonates, the fuel is dispersed. A second charge then detonates the billowing cloud of fuel.

Experts say such bombs tend to be far more powerful than conventional high explosives, and are more likely to kill or injure people hiding in caves, bunkers and similar shelters because they can suck the air out of such places.

Earlier versions of thermobaric bombs were used in Vietnam by the United States and in Chechnya by Russia.

The new version, called the BLU-1186, was developed specifically for use in the war against terrorism, officials here said.

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