A US military strike with a weapon known as the “mother of all bombs” (MOAB) killed 36 IS militants and destroyed their base, the Afghan defense ministry says. The most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever used by the US in combat was dropped on IS tunnels in Nangarhar province. No civilians were affected by the explosion, the ministry said.
Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah confirmed that the US attack had been carried out in co-ordination with the government and that great care had been taken to avoid civilian harm.
In a press briefing on Friday, Gen John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said: We have US forces at the site and we see no evidence of civilian casualties nor have there been reports.
The Afghan defense ministry said the bomb struck a village area in the Momand valley where IS fighters were using a 300m-long network of caves. It said the 9,800kg bomb also destroyed a large stash of weapon
Presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi revealed that IS commander Siddiq Yar was among those killed. Mr Murtazawi said the IS fighters in the tunnels had come from Pakistan and were persecuting people in the local area.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb was dropped by plane in Achin district on Thursday evening local time, the Pentagon said. More than 9 meters in length, it was first tested in 2003 but had not been deployed in combat before.
General Nicholson said it was the right weapon against the right target and it was the right time to use the GBU-43 tactically. He added: Let me be clear - we will not relent in our mission to destroy [IS in Afghanistan]... There will be no sanctuary for terrorists in Afghanistan.
Nangarhar Provincial Governor Gulab Mangal said IS fighters had used the complex to kill people and hold important meetings.
IS announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch - an old name for Afghanistan and surrounding areas - in January 2015. It was the first time that IS had officially spread outside the Arab world. It was the first major militant group to directly challenge the Afghan Taliban's dominance over the local insurgency.
However, experts say it has struggled to build a wide political base and the indigenous support it expected. It has steadily lost territory and fighters to US air strikes and an assault by Afghan forces on the ground.
Estimates about IS's numerical strength inside Afghanistan vary, ranging from several hundred to a few thousand fighters. US forces say their number has been cut in half since early 2016 due to military operations.
The MOAB strike followed last week's death of a US special forces soldier fighting IS in Nangarhar.