US'mother of all bombs' killed 36 Islamic State militants in Afghanistan
KABUL: As many as 36 suspected Islamic State militants were killed in Afghanistan when the United States dropped "the mother of all bombs," one of the largest non-nuclear devices ever unleashed in combat, the Afghan defence ministry said on Friday.
Thursday's strike came as US President Donald Trump dispatches his first high-level delegation to Kabul, amid uncertainty about his plans for the nearly 9,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan.
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The deaths have not been independently verified, but ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said no civilians were harmed in the massive blast that targeted a network of caves and tunnels.
"No civilian has been hurt and only the base, which Daesh used to launch attacks in other parts of the province, was destroyed," Waziri said in a statement.
He was using an Arabic term that refers to Islamic State, which has established a small stronghold in eastern Afghanistan and launched deadly attacks on the capital, Kabul.
The 21,600-pound (9,797-kg) GBU-43 bomb, was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar bordering Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said on Thursday.
The device, also known as the "mother of all bombs," is a GPS-guided munition that had never before been used in combat since its first test in 2003, when it produced a mushroom cloud visible from 20 miles (32 km) away.
The bomb's destructive power, equivalent to 11 tonnes of TNT, pales in comparison with the relatively small atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War Two, which had blasts equivalent to between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes of TNT.
In March, US forces conducted 79 "counterterror strikes" against Islamic State targets in Nangarhar, killing as many as 200 militants, according to the US military command in Kabul.
American military officials estimate there are around 600 to 800 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, mostly in Nangarhar, but also in the neighboring province of Kunar.
The United Nations has raised concerns that the American air campaign is swelling civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
Last year air strikes by the military coalition caused at least 127 civilian deaths and 108 injuries, up from 103 deaths and 67 injuries in 2015, the UN says.