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KABUL: As many as 36 suspected Islamic State militants were killed in Afghanistan when the United States dropped ” the mother of all bombs+ ,” its largest non-nuclear device ever unleashed in combat, the Afghan defence ministry said on Friday.

The claims have not been independently verified, but ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said no civilians were harmed in Thursday’s massive blast that targeted a network of caves and tunnels.

“No civilian has been hurt and only the base which Daesh used to launch attacks in other parts of the province, was destroyed,” Waziri said in a statement, using an Arabic term for Islamic State, which has established a small stronghold in eastern Afghanistan and launched deadly attacks on the capital, Kabul.

The huge bomb+ , delivered via an MC-130 transport plane, has a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, and the weapon was originally designed as much to intimidate foes as to clear broad areas.

“The GBU-43/B is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat,” Air Force spokesman Colonel Pat Ryder said.

Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari said the bomb landed in the Momand Dara area of Achin district.

“The explosion was the biggest I have ever seen. Towering flames engulfed the area,” Shinwari told AFP.

“We don’t know anything about the casualties so far, but since it is a Daesh (IS) stronghold we think a lot of Daesh fighters may have been killed.”

Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, is a hotbed of IS militancy. US forces have conducted a number of air strikes on jihadist bases in the area since August last year.

IS, notorious for its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has been making inroads into Afghanistan in recent years. It has attracted disaffected members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as well as Uzbek Islamists.

But the group has been steadily losing territory in the face of heavy pressure both from US air strikes and a ground offensive led by Afghan forces.

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