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Mother of all bombs killed 36 IS fighters, say officials

By Amir Shah

An attack on a tunnel complex in Afghanistan with the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat by the US military left 36 IS militants dead and no civilian casualties, it has been reported.

The strike was in a remote area of Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border where there had been fighting between Afghan forces and IS militants.

The Afghan defence ministry said in a statement that IS caves and ammunition caches were destroyed by the giant bomb, which terrified villagers on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with its "ear-splitting blast".

Pentagon officials described it as the "mother of all bombs".

The US has more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, training local forces and conducting counter-terrorism operations.

Over the past year they have concentrated on a surge of Taliban attacks, but on Friday the US military appeared focused on IS.

"This is the right weapon for the right target," said US general John W Nicholson, Nato commander in Afghanistan.

The bomb, known as a GBU-43B, has 11 tons of explosives.

US president Donald Trump called Thursday's operation a "very, very successful mission".

General Daulat Waziri, of the Afghanistan Ministry of Defence, said 36 IS fighters were killed by the blast and the death toll could rise, adding the attack was necessary because the tunnel complex was extremely hard to penetrate.

"It was a strong position and four times we had operations (attacking the site) and it was not possible to advance," he said."

Pakistani villagers living near the border said the explosion was so loud they thought a bomb had been dropped in their village.

"I was sleeping when we heard a loud explosion - it was an ear-splitting blast," said Shah Wali (46) who lives in nine miles from the border with Nangarhar. "I jumped from my bed and came out of my home to see what had gone wrong in our village."

Mufti Khan, a resident of Achin in Nangarhar, said: "The house was shaking. When I came out of my house I saw a large fire and the whole area was burning."

Another Achin resident, Mohammad Hakim, added: "We are very happy and these kinds of bombs should be used in future, so Daesh (IS) is rooted out. They killed our women, youths and elders, sitting them on mines. We ask the Kabul government to use even stronger weapons against them."

The US estimates 600 to 800 IS fighters are present in Afghanistan, mostly in Nangarhar.

Inamullah Meyakhil, spokesman for the central hospital in eastern Nangarhar province, said it had received no dead or wounded from the attack.

District governor Ismail Shinwari said there was no civilian property near the strike location.

The Site Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist organisations, reported a statement from the Afghan Taliban condemning the US for carrying out a "terrorist" attack.

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