Afghan authorities Saturday reported a jump in fatalities from the American military's largest non-nuclear bomb, declaring some 90 Islamic State fighters dead, as US-led ground forces sought to advance on their mountain hideouts.
The U.S. military used a GBU-43/B Massive Air Blast bomb in a tactical strike against militant targets in Afghanistan on Thursday, its first use in combat since it was developed in 2003.
General John Nicholson, the top USA military commander in Afghanistan, said Friday that his forces had coordinated the attack with the Afghan government, "just as we have since we started these operations in early March".
The Islamic State group has denied suffering any casualties, issuing a statement through its propaganda agency Amaq, saying: "Security source to Amaq agency denies any dead or wounded from yesterday's American strike in Nangarhar using a GBU-43/B".
"We had persistent surveillance over the area before, during and after the operation, and now we have Afghan and USA forces on the site, and see no evidence of civilian casualties", Nicholson said.
"I have witnessed a countless number of explosions and bombings in the last 30 years of war in Afghanistan, but this one was more powerful than any other bomb as far as I remember", a resident living about 1.5 miles from the blast told CNN.
Current President Ashraf Ghani's office said Friday there was "close co-ordination" between the US military and the Afghan government on the operation, and they were careful to prevent any civilian casualties.
"A year ago a drone strike targeted a house next to mine, but this time it felt like the heavens were falling", he explained.
The U.S. assessment is still in progress, a Pentagon official told NPR's Tom Bowman, adding that there's a chance the death toll might include results from two other smaller operations against ISIS-K that took place Thursday night.
On Saturday, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai criticised both the Afghan and USA governments for the attack.
USA and Afghan officials have said their goal is to "eliminate" the Islamic State from Afghanistan this year, but the Trump administration has not yet said if it plans to commit more troops to the fight.
U.S. President Donald Trump April 13 called the bombing "another successful job".
"This was the right weapon against the right target", Army Gen. John Nicholson, the USA commander in Afghanistan, said. I will say this: "I think China has really been working very hard", he said. Even local Taliban commanders fought with the group.
Spicer said the U.S. took "all precautions necessary" to prevent civilian casualties and collateral damage.
Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, said the colossal MOAB was dropped after fighting had intensified over the last week.
The region butts up against the porous Pakistan border.
The attack occurred at 7:32PM on Thursday, and according to Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Radmanesh, at least 37 IS militants died in the blast.