With an ‘ear-splitting blast’ heard miles away, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat left a crater more than 980ft wide after it was dropped by the US on Islamic State terrorists in Afghanistan.
As the repercussions of the Trump administration’s latest show of force were felt around the world, details of the huge bomb’s formidable force emerged yesterday.
Locals in villages miles away along the war-ravaged nation’s borders said they ‘felt like the heavens were falling’ as the bomb sent a huge fireball into the sky and made the ground shake.
The 21,600lb weapon – nicknamed the ‘mother of all bombs’ – set fire to the air around it as it exploded and vaporised anyone in the vicinity.
The Pentagon yesterday released aerial footage of Thursday’s attack, showing the 30ft bomb – a GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast or MOAB, the acronym that also gives it its nickname – speeding through the air before the huge explosion in a remote mountainous area of Nangarhar province, near the Pakistan border.
The Afghan ministry of defence said at least 36 IS terrorists hiding in underground tunnels were killed as the bomb released the equivalent of 11 tons of TNT at 7.32pm local time, and that the death toll could rise. Ammunition caches were also destroyed.
Pakistanis living near the Afghan border said the explosion was so loud they thought a bomb had been dropped on their own village by US planes.
Shah Wali, 46, who lives in Goor Gari, nine miles from the border with Nangarhar, said: ‘I was sleeping when we heard a loud explosion. It was an ear-splitting blast.
‘I jumped from my bed and came out of my home to see what has gone wrong in our village.’
Mufti Khan, a resident of Achin in Nangarhar, said: ‘The whole house was shaking. When I came out of my house I saw a large fire and the whole area was burning.’
Another Achin resident, Mohammad Hakim, said: ‘We are very happy and these kinds of bombs should be used in future as well, so Daesh is rooted out from here.’ Daesh is the Arabic name for IS.
Mr Hakim added: ‘They killed our women, youths and elders sitting them on mines. We also ask the Kabul government to use even stronger weapons against them.’ Mohammad Shahzadah, who was in another a nearby village, told the Guardian: ‘The earth felt like a boat in a storm. I thought my house was being bombed. Last year a drone strike targeted a house next to mine, but this time it felt like the heavens were falling.
‘The children and women were very scared.’ The MOAB is a ‘thermobaric’ weapon, setting the air on fire as it explodes 6ft above the ground and sucking in all the surrounding oxygen. It released such a huge blast wave, with a one-mile radius, it would have destroyed anything up to 200ft underground and set off small earthquakes.
General Daulat Waziri, a defence ministry spokesman, said the bombing was necessary because IS’s tunnel complex was extremely hard to penetrate, with some as deep as 130ft.
He said: ‘It was a strong position and four times we had operations attacking the site but it was not possible to advance.’ He added that the road leading to the complex ‘was full of mines’.
Inamullah Meyakhil, spokesman for the central hospital in eastern Nangarhar province, said it had received no dead or wounded. District governor Ismail Shinwari said there was no civilian property near the strike. The office of president Ashraf Ghani said they were careful to prevent civilian casualties.
The dropping of the bomb marked the fulfilment of an election promise by Donald Trump, who had said he ‘would bomb the s*** out of’ IS if he became president.
Mr Trump called Thursday’s operation a ‘very, very successful mission’.
POWERFUL: New Pentagon video shows the explosive power of the MOAB dropped in Afghanistan
US SENT JETS TO EUROPE IN SHOW OF FORCE The US Air Force will deploy a number of F-35 fighter jets to Europe this weekend for several weeks of training in another display of strength, the Pentagon said last night. They will be there with other US and NATO military aircraft. It did not name the countries where the aircraft would be deployed to but said the purpose was to ‘further demonstrate the operational capabilities’ of the stealth fighter jet. The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth generation fighter jet, combining advanced stealth with speed and agility. They are used by the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, and by Australia, Britain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands and Israel. Japan took delivery of its first jet in December. The deployment to Europe will be as part of the European Reassurance Initiative, a programme initiated in 2014 by the White House to increase US presence in Europe for security purposes. America is also sending around 40 regular troops to Somalia to help train the country’s army as it battles extremist group al-Shabaab. The US pulled out of Somalia, which has suffered decades of conflict, after 1993, when two helicop