Afghanistan says a massive bomb dropped Thursday by a U.S. warplane killed 36 members of Islamic State group and destroyed a large cache of weapons.
A statement released by the Afghan defense ministry Friday said there were no civilian casualties in this attack. The 10,000-kilogram GBU-43 bomb, known as “the mother of all bombs” (MOAB), was dropped on an Islamic State bunker complex in northeastern Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan Thursday.
WATCH: US Department of Defense video footage of bomb blast
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said the operation took place in coordination with the Afghan Security and Defense Forces. It added that the Afghan forces are also collaborating with NATO’s Resolute Support mission to fight against other terrorist groups.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the use of the MOAB on Afghan soil.
“I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear #bomb, on Afghanistan by US military,” Karzai said in a Twitter post.
“This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons. It is upon us, Afghans, to stop the #USA,” Karzai said.
‘Right weapon’ for target
General John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said on Friday his decision to deploy the MOAB was done in communication with officials in Washington and was a purely tactical decision. “This was the right weapon for the right target,” Nicholson told a news conference Friday.
WATCH: Gen. Nicholson on Afghanistan bombing
Nicholson said Islamic State extremists in Afghanistan have been increasing their use of tunnels and underground bunkers to “thicken their defense,” and added: “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive.”
The Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, developed more than a decade ago, has never before been used in combat.
From Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump indicated the military strike against IS extremists had his full approval. He dodged a question about the mission’s goal, but hinted it may also have been intended to send a forceful message to North Korea, which is rumored to be planning another nuclear weapons test shortly.
“I don’t know if this sends a message [to North Korea]. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not,” Trump told reporters Thursday at the White House. “North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.”
WATCH: Trump on approving military strike
The Pentagon said in a statement that a GBU-43 bomb was dropped earlier in the day on an IS tunnel complex in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, near the border with Pakistan.
Trump said the airstrike in Afghanistan was “another successful event,” and noted, “We are so proud of our military.”
A short time earlier, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters the mission against the IS complex was necessary because the U.S. and its allies “must deny them operational space, which we did.”
References to North Korea that arose in connection with the Afghan bombing were due to increasing tensions in the area around the reclusive communist state, since there have been signs Pyongyang is preparing to mark an important national anniversary in the coming days – possibly with a long-rumored sixth test of one of its nuclear warheads.
Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops and heavy weaponry have been mobilized for their largest-ever joint military exercise.
North Korea has threatened war if it sees signs of “aggression” south of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas. Trump has warned the United States will no longer tolerate any provocative activity by Pyongyang – presumably by imposing even tougher economic sanctions. But comments by the president and other senior officials have left open the possibility of more direct confrontation.
China, North Korea’s only staunch ally, has said tension in the region cannot be de-escalated militarily and has urged Pyongyang to halt its nuclear program in exchange for Chinese protection.