Rome: Pope Francis has criticised the naming of the US military’s biggest non-nuclear explosive as “the Mother of All Bombs”, saying the word “mother” should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon.
The US Air Force dropped the ammunition, officially designated as the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) on suspected Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan last month.
The nickname was widely used in briefings and reporting on the attack.”I was ashamed when I heard the name,” Pope Francis told an audience of students.
The MOAB, a non-nuclear GPS-guided bomb, was first designed in 2002 and was reportedly first publicly tested in the days leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq in order to win a “psychological” war to deter Saddam Hussein. It carries 8,000 kilograms of explosives, compared to the 250-kilogram average weight of most deployed conventional bombs.
US General John W Nicholson, NATO commander in Afghanistan, said the decision to deploy the bomb was purely tactical, based on his assessment of military needs and not broader political considerations. “This was the first time that we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress,” General Nicholson said of a joint Afghan-US operation that has been targeting IS fighters since March. “It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield.”
Pope Francis is set to meet US President Donald Trump on May 24 in a potentially awkward encounter given their opposing positions on immigration, refugees and climate change.
President Trump will be coming from the Middle East and stop in Rome before going to Brussels for a NATO summit and then to Sicily for a meeting of the Group of Seven nations.
The Vatican said the meeting would take place at the Apostolic Palace early on Wednesday, an unusual day and an unusually early time for a head of state to meet the Pope.
Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience on Wednesday mornings, and senior Vatican sources said the meeting with the President had to be squeezed in before that.
On Saturday, the Pope told reporters aboard the plane returning from a trip to Egypt that he was not aware of any request from Mr Trump for a meeting. He repeated the policy that a pope meets with any head of state who asks for a private audience.