As It Happens

'This felt like doomsday,' Afghan reporter says after U.S. drops massive bomb on ISIS target

A local journalist describes what he was able to learn in the hours after the U.S. dropped a bomb nicknamed 'the mother of all bombs' on an ISIS target in Afghanistan.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb. The Pentagon says U.S. forces in Afghanistan dropped the military's largest non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan. A Pentagon spokesman said it was the first-ever combat use of the bomb. (Eglin Air Force Base/Associated Press)

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The United States dropped a weapon nicknamed as "the mother of all bombs" on an ISIS cave network in Afghanistan Thursday, the military said.

The GBU-43 bomb, officially called Massive Ordinance Air Blast, or MOAB, is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. military in combat. It was dropped on the district of Achin in Nangarhar province. 

It was not immediately clear how much damage was done by the bomb, which at 9.8 tonnes, is so large it had to be dropped from a cargo plane.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary, who was in Kabul, not long after the blast. Here is part of their conversation.

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Carol Off: Bilal, can you first of all tell us what you're hearing from Achin, this district where this bomb hit?

Bilal Sarwary: I was able to speak to an Afghan local police commander who said a series of tunnels belonging to the Islamic State, or ISIS, were targeted around 7:30 this evening.

The bomb shook the entire district according to him and other residents. And according to one villager, there's not a single home where you can find a window — every single window is broken. Some of the shrapnel or debris from the big bomb have travelled all the way to the district headquarters, which is quite far away.

'The entire valley was shaken. At first they thought it was an earthquake, or something even bigger."- Afghan journalist Bilal Salwary

CO: Are your sources telling you about casualties, about civilians, or anyone they know who was killed in the blast?

BS: The Afghan local police commander, the provincial council members that I am speaking to, they're only saying that they believe at least 20 to 30 fighters may have been killed.

As I said, there are homes, we don't know if people are still living or not. ... It's one of the most remote villages and valleys. It's insecure. You don't have electricity. Phone services are not very reliable. But one villager, for example, was telling me that the radio station run by ISIS is not broadcasting. Whether it was destroyed in the strike or they're deliberately going off air, that we still have to wait and see. 

The 'mother of all bombs' is dropped on a test target in Florida in 2003. (Handout)

CO: Did people tell you about what it sounded like, the impression they had when this bomb hit?

BS: What I have been told by the Afghan local police commander that I have known for a few months — this felt like doomsday. The entire valley was shaken. At first they thought it was an earthquake, or something even bigger than that. But as I said, it is a remote area. You don't have the means to travel to those villages and valleys to check on people. And phone services are not very reliable. But I think that would be the concern — that this is also a place where thousands of civilians live.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Bilal Salwary.