Caught on video, the moment the US drops 'mother of all bombs' on 36 Isil militants

Nick Allen

The moment the American military dropped "the mother of all bombs" on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan, killing 36 militants, was caught on video. 

The footage, released by Washington on Friday, shows crosshairs hovering over a spot at the foot of a mountain range in the east of the country.

Within seconds, the largest non-nuclear bomb America has ever used in combat hurtles towards an Isil complex of caves and tunnels. 

Smashing into the earth, it throws up a thick cloud of smoke as rubble flies through the air. 

The 21,000lb device was dropped on an IS cave tunnel complex in a remote area in the east of the country.

The blast killed 36 IS militants and no civilians, said Afghanistan's defence ministry.

The bomb also destroyed the base used by the militants and blew up a large stash of weapons.

Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah confirmed that the attack had been carried out in co-ordination with the government and explained that "great care had been taken to avoid civilian harm".

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, widely known in the US military as the 'Mother Of All Bombs' Credit: Department of Defence via Getty Images

IS commander Siddiq Yar was among those killed, presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi told the BBC.

He said that militants in the tunnels had "come from Pakistan and were persecuting people in the local area".

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb used is widely known in the US military as the "Mother Of All Bombs". It is the first time the bomb has been used against an enemy.

The bomb, also known as the GBU-43B, was dropped in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan.

The size of the bomb, measuring 30ft long, meant that a US Air Force MC-130 cargo plane with a rear door had to be used and it was pushed out of the aircraft rather than dropped from a bomb bay.

A US official told Fox News: "We kicked it out the back door."

The bomb explodes in the air and creates a massive shockwave. The resulting "overpressure" collapsed the tunnels.

One official said: "It's a concussive blast. Everyone in the area is obliterated, ears are bleeding, or they're completely destroyed."

General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said: "As Isis losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defence.

"This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive."

The US military said it did everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

A video provided by the Pentagon showed a huge cloud of smoke after the bomb exploded.

A damage assessment was being carried out.

While the MOAB was 21,000lbs, each of the Tomahawks dropped in Syria was 1,000lbs.

Sean Spicer, spokesman for the White House, said the bomb was dropped at 7pm local time in Afghanistan.

He said: "We targeted a system of tunnels and caves which Isis fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target US advisers and Afghan forces. We must deny them operational space.

"The US took all steps to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage."

US officials said intelligence suggested that the IS group in Afghanistan was based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighbouring Kunar province.

They believe the movement only has 700 fighters but Afghan officials estimates there are about 1,500.

Afghanistan's IS offshoot is suspected of carrying out several attacks.

The Afghan Taliban, which is trying to overthrow the US-backed government in Kabul, are fiercely opposed to IS and the two groups have clashed as they seek to expand territory and influence. 

In a 2003 review of the legality of using the bomb, the Pentagon concluded that it could not be called an indiscriminate killer under the Law of Armed Conflict.

"Although the MOAB weapon leaves a large footprint, it is discriminate and requires a deliberate launching toward the target," the review said.

US president Donald Trump said: “Very, very proud of the people. Really, another successful job. We’re very very proud of our military. It was another successful event."

 "If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to what’s really happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there is a tremendous difference. Tremendous difference."

Asked if he had authorised the use of the bomb, Mr Trump said: "Everybody knows exactly what happened and what I do is I authorise my military.

"We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual so we have given them total authorisation. And that’s what they’re doing. And frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately."

Asked if it sent a message to North Korea, he said: "I don't know if this sends a message. It doesn't make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of."

Mr Trump said he had confidence in China's president XI Jinping to help rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

He said: "I have really gotten to like and respect President Xi. He's a very special man. I think he's going to try very hard."

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