ISLAMABAD: Afghans are deeply divided over use by the US military of the ‘mother of all bombs’ that on Thursday targeted the alleged hideouts of the Islamic State (IS) militants in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province and killed over 30 IS operatives, according to Afghan officials.
US Resolute Support Mission (RSM) commander General John W Nicholson on Friday told reporters in Kabul that the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb hit the IS positions in Nangarhar’s Achin district in coordination with the Afghan forces.
“We are united with the Afghan government to prevent terrorists from establishing safe havens in Afghanistan,” Gen Nicholson said. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah defended the dropping of GBU-43, the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat operations.
Ruling out any civilian casualties despite the weapon's destructive capacity, the Afghan defence ministry said over 30 Da’ish fighters were killed on Thursday at 7.30 pm local time when the bomb was dropped in Momand Valley of Achin district.
There was no independent confirmation of the claim. Afghan media quoted locals as saying they saw flames at the bombed site. "The explosion was the biggest I have ever seen," Achin governor Esmail Shinwari told AFP, adding the bomb landed in the Momand Dara area of the district.
US drops 'Mother of All Bombs' on Da'ish hideouts in Afghanistan
An Afghan militant source told AFP from an undisclosed location that locals had described the ground shaking ‘like an earthquake’, with people being knocked unconscious by the blast. "People have started leaving the area fearing more bombings," he said.
Afghans familiar with the area told The Express Tribune that Momand Valley is located in an inaccessible area and Da’ish had been using tunnels to hide and also to keep prisoners there.
Gen Nicholson defended the strike despite many in the war-ravaged country questioning as to why the America used this massive bomb in Afghanistan when it has never been used in Iraq and Syria.
“This was the right weapon against the right target,” Nicholson said at his presser, adding “the weapon used, the GBU-43, is designed to destroy caves and tunnels.” He said there were no civilian casualties.
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Despite endorsement of the bombing by President Ghani and CEO Dr Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai and Kabul’s top envoy to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal condemned the American attack.
“I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear bomb, on Afghanistan by US military.
“This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as a testing ground for new and dangerous weapons. It is upon us…to stop the USA,” Karzai wrote on Twitter
Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal used his Twitter account to deplore the US action and described the American military action as counterproductive.
“I find the use of the largest non-nuclear bomb, the so-called ‘mother of all bombs’, on our soil reprehensible & counterproductive. If big bombs were the solution we would be the most secure place on earth today,” he said.
Taliban describe bombing as heinous crime
The Afghan Taliban also strongly condemned the US attack which is apparently used also as a warning to the insurgent group ahead of its annual spring offensive. The Taliban described the bombing as a heinous crime, arguing that such action will justify the narrative of Jihad.
"Dropping of the massive and the so-called mother of all bombs, celebrating the attack and using it as a propaganda tool show the growing barbarism of the American invaders," the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Friday.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
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