U.S. drops most powerful non-nuclear bomb on ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan

PUBLISHED Thu, April 13, 2017 - 12:47pm EDT
File photo (Credit: U.S. military)

The U.S. military has dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan, marking the first time that such a weapon has been used on the battlefield. The results of the bombing were not immediately known.

The airstrike happened at about 7:32 p.m. local time on Thursday when a U.S. aircraft dropped a GBU-43 bomb on an ISIS tunnel complex in Achin district in Nangarhar province. The 21,600-pound bomb - with 11 tons TNT - is also known as the "mother of all bombs."

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement that the weapon was deployed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. forces as they carry out clearing operations in the area, while maximizing the losses of ISIS fighters and facilities.

"As ISIS-K's losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense," said General John W. Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. "This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K."

Specific details about the results of Thursday's massive bombing were not immediately known, but tribal elders told Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary that a "huge fire" had broken out. He added that at least 20 to 30 fighters are thought to have been killed.

In addition, "every window" in Achin district was broken by the shock wave and shrapnel from the blast traveled as far away as Sra Kala, the tribal elders told Sarwary. It was not immediately known whether any civilians were among the casualties.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. The weapon was created in 2002 to put pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and it was first tested in Florida in March 2003, creating a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away.

Russia later developed the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power and nicknamed it the "Father of All Bombs," claiming the bomb has a blast yield of 44 tons of TNT, which would make it 4 times as powerful as the GBU-43. Some have questioned Russia's claims.

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