KABUL, Afghanistan — The attack on a tunnel complex in remote eastern Afghanistan with the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat by the U.S. military left 36 Islamic State group fighters dead and no civilian casualties, Afghanistan officials said Friday.
The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that several IS caves and ammunition caches were destroyed by the giant bomb, which terrified villagers on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with its “earsplitting blast.”
The U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said the bomb was dropped at about 7:30 p.m. local time Thursday on a tunnel complex in Nangarhar province, where the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group has been operating. The target was close to the Pakistani border.
“I want a hundred times more bombings on this group,” said Hakim Khan, 50, a resident of Achin district, the site of the blast.
Pakistani villagers living near the Afghan border said the explosion was so loud they thought a bomb ad been dropped in their village by U.S. warplanes targeting terrorists in Pakistan.
“I was sleeping when we heard a loud explosion. It was an earsplitting blast,” said Shah Wali, 46, who lives in the village of Goor Gari, 9 miles from the border with Nangarhar. “I jumped from my bed and came out of my home to see what has gone wrong in our village.”
Wali said dozens of other villagers also came out of homes and later he went near the border, where he met with other residents. He said he could see smoke in the sky.
Gen. Daulat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, said the death toll of IS fighters could rise. He said the bombing was necessary because the fortification was extremely hard to penetrate, with tunnels as deep as 43 yards.
“It was a strong position and four times we had operations (attacking the site) and it was not possible to advance,” he said, adding that the road leading to the target “was full of mines.”
The U.S. estimates 600 to 800 IS fighters are present in Afghanistan, mostly in Nangarhar. The U.S. has concentrated heavily on combatting them while also supporting Afghan forces battling the Taliban. President Donald Trump called Thursday's operation a “very, very successful mission.”
The bomb, known officially as a GBU-43B, or massive ordnance air blast weapon, unleashes 11 tons of explosives.
Inamullah Meyakhil, spokesman for the central hospital in eastern Nangarhar province, said the facility had received no dead or wounded from the attack.
District Gov. Ismail Shinwari said there is no civilian property near the airstrike location.
There was no immediate comment from the Islamic State group or other militants regarding the U.S. bomb attack.
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