US military drops 'mother of all bombs on IS' in Afghanistan


In this U.S. Air Force handout, a GBU-43/B bomb, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, is launched November 21, 2003 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.Image copyright
USAF/Getty Images

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The bomb has never been used in combat before

The US military has dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on an Islamic State group tunnel complex in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), known as “the mother of all bombs”, was first tested in 2003, but had not been used before in combat.

The Pentagon said it was dropped from a US aircraft in Nangarhar province.

The news came hours after the Pentagon admitted an air strike in Syria mistakenly killed 18 rebels.

It said a partnered force had mistakenly identified the target location as an IS position, but the strike on 11 April had killed rebels from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is backed by Washington.

The strike in Afghanistan follows last week’s death of a US special forces soldier fighting IS in Nangarhar.

The 21,600lb (9,800kg) bomb was dropped in Achin district on Thursday evening local time, the Pentagon said. It is more than 9m (30 feet) in length.

“We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters use to move around freely, making it easier for them to target US military advisers and Afghan forces in the area,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, using another name for IS.

He said necessary precautions were taken to prevent civilian casualties and “collateral damage”.

US special forces soldier is killed in Afghanistan

Gen John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said the jihadist group’s “losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defence.

“This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive.”

Image copyright
AFP

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Nato estimates that there are between 1,000 and 1,500 IS fighters in Afghanistan

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 in Afghanistan.

Estimates about IS’s numerical strength inside Afghanistan vary, ranging from 1,000 to 5,000.

IS in Afghanistan: How successful has the group been?


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