The US has dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat in eastern Afghanistan on a series of caves used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, according to the Pentagon.
The GBU-43 bomb was dropped on Thursday from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan, said Adam Stump, a Pentagon spokesperson.
Also known as the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43 is a 9,797kg GPS-guided munition and was first tested in March 2003, just days before the start of the Iraq war.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the strike was designed to minimise the risk to Afghan and US forces conducting clearing operations in the area.
But the ultra-heavy explosive – equal to 11 tonnes of TNT with a blast radius of 1.6km on each side – could potentially cause many civilian casualties.
The non-nuclear bomb killed at least 36 fighters and destroyed a deep tunnel complex of ISIL, Afghan officials said on Friday, ruling out any civilian casualties.
“As a result of the bombing, key Daesh [ISIL] hideouts and deep tunnel complex were destroyed and 36 IS fighters were killed,” the defence ministry said of the strike.
The bomb landed in the Momand Dara area of Achin district, according to Esmail Shinwari, the local governor.