US drops 'mother of all bombs' on ISIS caves in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — The United States dropped the largest conventional bomb ever deployed in combat Thursday to destroy a series of Islamic State caves in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.
An Air Force MC-130 dropped a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, known as “the mother of all bombs,” in Nangarhar province, said Adam Stump, a Defense Department spokesman.
The bomb hit a mountainous area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where sustained firefights with ISIS militants have taken place. Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, 37, was killed Saturday by small-arms fire in Nangarhar when his unit was attacked.
ISIS is estimated to have between 600 to 800 fighters in the area, Stump said. The bomb was selected to clear out ISIS fighters and buildings to minimize risk to U.S.-led coalition forces.
A message posted to Facebook, said to be from the Nangarhar governor’s office, addressed the bombing.
"A very big and important [ISIS] hideout in Achin has been destroyed, and important [ISIS] fighters and leaders were killed," it said. "Because there were no civilians living in the area," the note said, "we believe there are no casualties to civilians in the area."
The Pentagon had deliberated using the bomb for months and the final decision to deploy it was approved by Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, Stump said.
ISIS in Afghanistan, officially known as Islamic State-Khorasan, had been fortifying their position with roadside bombs, bunkers and caves, Nicholson said.
The bomb has 21,600 pounds of explosives meant to detonate on the surface. The Air Force has another “bunker buster” bomb, the massive ordinance penetrator, which is a physically larger, heavier bomb than the one dropped in Nangarhar on Thursday because it is designed to penetrate 200 feet underground upon contact, but carries less explosives, about 5,000 pounds.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.