Huge blast in Afghanistan kills 36 militants



Citing the group's deadly attacks on shrines and peaceful demonstrators, and reports that it had beheaded civilians, Nicholson said USA forces were committed to eradicating the militants from Afghanistan in 2017.

He defended the use of the massive weapon, saying it was created to destroy the types of caves and tunnels that Islamic State militants use to evade coalition forces.

The bomb, known officially as a GBU-43B, unleashes 11 tons of explosives and detonates in the air, about 1.8 metres above the ground. The bomb is guided by satellite to its target.

Nicknamed "the mother of all bombs", the weapon was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar, bordering Pakistan.

At least 82 militants of IS group had been killed following the raid that also destroyed a big IS hideout along with several bunkers as well as a 300-meter-long tunnels, according to Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman of provincial government.

Nangarhar borders Pakistan and is a hotbed of militancy.

The U.S. estimates 600 to 800 IS fighters are present in Afghanistan, mostly in Nangarhar. The US has concentrated heavily on combating them while also supporting Afghan forces battling the Taliban. Just last week a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, 37, of Edgewood, Maryland, was killed in action in Nangarhar.

Plumes of smoke were visible from several miles away as the airstrikes provided cover for Afghan commandos and USA advisers who have been locked in a two-week battle to clear a network of tunnels used by Islamic State militants - the target of the Thursday bombing.

Afghan officials say dozens of ISIL fighters were killed by the Pentagon's massive bombing.

"This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K", he added, using the US military's acronym for the IS affiliate.

Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari said "at least 92 Daesh fighters were killed" - adding there were "no military and civilian casualties at all".

"The reported location for this air-dropped weapon would be specifically chosen to target insurgents", he said, "as non-combatant civilian populations would have no reason to operate in the cave structure of Afghanistan".

The strike was part of efforts to defeat Islamic State's local affiliate ISIS-K in Afghanistan, the US Central Command said.

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