US 'mother of all bombs' kills IS-militants in Afghanistan

US 'mother of all bombs' kills IS-militants in Afghanistan
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb hit Islamic State positions in the Achin district in the eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday.

3 min read
14 April, 2017

The US military's largest non-nuclear bomb killed dozens of Islamic State militants as it smashed their mountain hideouts, Afghan officials said on Friday, ruling out any civilian casualties despite the weapon's destructive capacity.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb – dubbed the "Mother Of All Bombs" – hit IS positions in the Achin district in the eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday.

The bomb, unleashed by the US for the first time in combat, is expected to further erode IS's capabilities in Afghanistan and sends a warning to the much bigger Taliban group ahead of their annual spring offensive.

It comes only a week after US President Donald Trump ordered missile strikes against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack.

"As a result of the bombing, key Daesh (IS) hideouts were destroyed and 36 IS fighters were killed," the Afghan defence ministry said, adding that the bombing was carried out in coordination with local military forces.

Trump had earlier called the mission "very, very successful".

The huge bomb, delivered via an MC-130 transport plane, has a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, and the weapon was originally designed as much to intimidate foes as to clear broad areas.

The explosion reverberated for miles and engulfed the remote area in towering flames, destroying what Afghan officials called a network of underground IS tunnels and caves that had been mined against conventional ground attacks.

"The explosion was the biggest I have ever seen," Achin governor Esmail Shinwari told AFP, adding the bomb landed in the Momand Dara area of the district.

An Afghan militant source told AFP from an undisclosed location that locals had described the ground shaking "like an earthquake", with people being knocked unconscious by the blast.

"People have started leaving the area fearing more bombings," he said.

The arsenal was dropped after fighting intensified over the past week and US-backed ground forces struggled to advance on the area. An American special forces soldier was killed last Saturday in Nangarhar while conducting anti-IS operations.

The Taliban, who are expected to soon announce the start of this year's fighting season, also condemned what it called "America's heavy use of weapons on Afghanistan".

Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, is a hotbed of IS militancy. US forces have conducted a number of airstrikes on extremist bases in the area since August last year.

IS, notorious for its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has been making inroads into Afghanistan in recent years. It has attracted disaffected members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as well as Uzbek Islamists.

But the group has been steadily losing territory in the face of heavy pressure both from US airstrikes and a ground offensive led by Afghan forces.