The number of ISIS militants killed in Thursday’s U.S. military strike in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, using the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, has reportedly risen to 94, an Afghan official revealed on Saturday. According to military sources, the 21,000 lb GBU-43 massive ordinance blast weapon used in the attack on Thursday was the largest non-nuclear weapon the U.S. military has ever used in combat.
The Associated Press reports that Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the governor of Afghanistan’s remote Nangarhar province, said in a statement released on Saturday that the number of ISIS militants who died in the “Mother Of All Bombs” attack launched on Thursday had risen from 36 reported on Friday to “at least 94.”
At least four ISIS military leaders were also killed in the attack, Khogyani claimed.
“Fortunately there is no report of civilians being killed in the attack,” he added.
The statement by the spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar came after an Afghan Ministry of Defense official said on Friday that ongoing clearance and assessment of the bomb site in the Achin district of Nangarhar indicated that the number of dead could rise.
Khogyani said that the latest death figure was received from Afghan military personnel involved in clearance operations and assessment of the site following the massive blast attack. He added that the assessment was still ongoing, suggesting that the figure could rise further.
According to a previous statement by the U.S. military, the MOAB attack was targeted at a tunnel complex in the remote eastern Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan where ISIS militants are known to be based. The bomb strike hit an extensive network of tunnels dug into the mountains. The attack was launched on Thursday after Afghan forces had tried repeatedly to capture the tunnels in fierce and prolonged fighting with ISIS militants in the province.
Soon after the attack, a U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that the bomb had achieved it intended purpose, implying that the tunnel had been destroyed.
“This weapon was used against Isis-K and their sanctuary inside Afghanistan,” NATO forces commander General John Nicholson said., according to the AP. “The purpose of this operation was to eliminate their sanctuary inside Southern Nangarhar. The weapon achieved its intended purpose.”
But ISIS later released a counter-statement denying that any of its militants were killed or injured in the blast attack.
And later on Saturday, during an address delivered at an event in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, the former president of the country, criticized the Afghan government for allowing the U.S. military to launch the bomb attack. He said that allowing the U.S. military to launch such an attack in Nangarhar was an insult to Afghans. He added that the action amounted to what he termed “national treason.”
But the administration of President Ashraf Ghani had said earlier on Friday that the Afghan military authorities were working closely with U.S. military forces in the country to coordinate operations against ISIS militants based in the area. He also said that the operations were being conducted with care taken to prevent civilian casualties.
U.S. military authorities in Afghanistan estimate that ISIS could have up to 800 fighters in the country, with most operating in the remote eastern Nangarhar province. The U.S. forces in Afghanistan, about 8,000-strong, are involved with their Afghan counterparts in military operations against ISIS in the Nangarhar area, as well as against Taliban insurgents operating in the country.
U.S. personnel in the country are engaged mostly in training local forces and carrying out counter-terrorism operations, according to the AP.
The MOAB weapon used on Thursday is a GPS-guided weapon that was first tested in 2003 and has not been used in combat since them. The weapon’s blast generates a mushroom cloud that can be seen from about 20 kilometers away.
[Featured Image by Eglin Air Force Base/AP Images]