war on terror

US bomb strike killed 36 Islamic State fighters, says Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry

A spokesperson said US forces carried out the operation ‘in coordination’ with the Afghan military.

At least 36 Islamic State group fighters were killed in Thursday’s bomb strike by the United States, the Defence Ministry of Afghanistan said on Friday, according to CNN. Touted as the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast destroyed three underground tunnels, weapons and ammunition used by the extremist outfit. There were no civilian casualties in the strike in Nangarhar province’s Achin district, a spokesperson said.

This is the first time the US used its largest non-nuclear weapon in combat since it was tested (pictured above) in 2003. It was dropped around 7 pm (local time) on Thursday, targeting Islamic State group hideouts near the Afghan border with Pakistan.

Achin is a mountainous and sparsely-populated district. According to the US military, 600 to 800 Islamic State group rebels are believed to be operating from the region. The MOAB has the ability to particularly target tunnels and caves. Afghan Ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib told CNN that forces of both countries had been unable to advance because the militants had mined the area with explosives.

Although several Afghan officials said they did not know about such a strike being carried out, the Defence Ministry spokesperson claimed that the bombing was carried out “in coordination” with the Afghan military. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani also hinted at a similar claim when he said that the strike was “designed to support the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces and the US forces”.

Ghani’s remarks were backed by US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, who said that that the US was “working with the government of Afghanistan to deny any terrorist organisation a safe haven or any kind of material support on the ground”.

Political reactions:

The mission has found support among US lawmakers and in Afghanistan. Ghani lauded the operation and said, “Precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties with this airstrike.” US lawmakers said the strike “sends a clear message” to militant groups.

US Senator Jim Inhofe, who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the operation was in support of the fight against militancy. “The decision to drop the MOAB in eastern Afghanistan sends a clear message that the US is committed and determined to defeating ISIS and other terrorist organisations in Afghanistan,” he said, according to PTI.

Congressman Kevin congratulated President Donald Trump for sending out a message loud enough to reach Russia, North Korea and Iran. Similarly, Congressman Matt Gaetz said the strike was a testimony of Trump’s commitment to eradicate the Islamic State group. Indian-American Republican leader Puneet Ahluwalia hailed it as a mark of the US president’s leadership. “We will not hesitate to use whatever is in our arsenal to defeat our enemies,” he added.

However, Democratic lawmakers questioned the mission. “President Trump owes the American people an explanation about his escalation of military force in Afghanistan and his long-term strategy to defeat ISIS,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

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