U.S. military’s largest non-nuclear bomb killed at least 36 militants in an attack on Islamic State positions in Afghanistan while also triggering a rift among some of the country’s current and former officials.
The strike using the Massive Ordance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, was carried out Thursday morning against an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group tunnel complex carved in the mountains that Afghan forces have tried to assault repeatedly in recent weeks in fierce fighting in Nangarhar province, Afghan officials said.
The death toll was given Friday by Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, after the raid the previous night. The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb was dropped to destroy a series of caves and tunnels used by the terrorists.
“This was the right weapon against the right target,” General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, told reporters Friday. “We have U.S. forces at the site and we see no evidence of civilian casualties nor have there been reports.”
Nicholson added that the strike “demonstrates the commitment of Afghan forces, Afghan government and U.S. partners to defeat” Islamic State.
The attack marked the first combat use of the so-called MOAB, a weapon so big that it’s rolled out the back of a cargo aircraft instead of being carried in a bomber’s internal bay or slung beneath the wings or fuselage. But the strike drew both support and criticism in a country long ravaged by fighting.
In posts on Twitter, the office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reiterated comments by U.S. officials, saying the raid was to support Afghan and U.S. forces against Islamic State in the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province and efforts were made to minimize civilian deaths.