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Air Force drops non-nuclear ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan

The U.S. military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on a cave and tunnel complex that it said was used by Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan.

The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, a 30-foot-long, 21,600-pound munition known as the “mother of all bombs,” has never before been used in combat.

It was not immediately clear why the Pentagon decided it was necessary to use an 11-ton bomb against a group that largely depends on suicide bombers and AK-47s to attack enemies.  

The military said the bomb was dropped at 7:32 a.m. on an Islamic State stronghold in Achin district in Nangarhar province

“The strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction” to the militants, the statement said.

Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the group has used bunkers and tunnels to “thicken their defense.”

“This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive,” Nicholson said.

On Saturday, the U.S. military announced that Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, a 37-year-old Green Beret from Maryland, was killed in action in Nangarhar province after coming under fire from the Islamic State.

He was the first American service member killed in action this year in Afghanistan, and the 1,833rd since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

The GBU-43 was developed in 2002 “put pressure on then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to cease and desist or the United States would not only have the means but use them against the unpopular tyrant,” the Air Force said in 2005 news release.

Packed with more than 18,700 pounds of explosives and 30 feet long, the giant bomb was tested  at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

On its final day of testing, March 11, 2003, a huge mushroom cloud could be seen from 20 miles away, the release said.

Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. military announced a accidental airstrike this week killed 18 friendly fighters battling Islamic State alongside the international coalition in northern Syria.

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