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Kerala man among 36 Islamic State (ISIS) men killed in US Bombing in Afghanistan

The bomb used in the strike is claimed to be the biggest-ever non-nuclear bomb.

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Islamic State (ISIS), VOA

Washington/Kasargode (Kerala), April 14, 2017: An Islamic State (IS) activist from Kerala is believed to have been killed along with 36 IS militants when the US unleashed a massive GBU-43 bomb, also known as the “mother of all bombs”, on the terror group’s position in a cave network in eastern Afghanistan.

According to Indian intelligence officials, Murshid Mohammed, in his 20s, who hailed from Kasaragode in Kerala, was among the IS militants killed after the US military struck the IS’ position in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistan border, on Thursday with a massive 10-tonne missile-powered bomb.

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Speaking to IANS, a top intelligence officer in Kasargode said that around Thursday midnight they got information of Mohammed being killed in the US military assault.

“The information of the death came to a relative of Mohammed. Unlike similar news received in February about the death of another youth from here, this time there are no pictures (to establish the death),” the officer said.

A relative of Mohammed received only a message that he was killed, according to the Kerala Police intelligence wing.

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The bomb used in the strike is claimed to be the biggest-ever non-nuclear bomb.

It was so massive that it had to be dropped from the rear of a cargo plane, said Pentagon.

Afghan officials said 36 militants were killed in the strike.

“The strike has destroyed an IS headquarters, three IS hideouts along with several bunkers and deep tunnels as well as huge amount of weapons and ammunition,” the Afghanistan Defence Ministry statement said.

No civilian was injured in the raid which took place in Mohmand Dara village, Asadkhil area of the district, the statement added.

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The strike was designed to minimise the risk to Afghan and US forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximising the destruction of IS fighters and facilities, said the US Forces-Afghanistan, which is part of NATO-led Resolute Support.

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani hailed the attack on the IS position.

“Precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties with this airstrike. Assessment of the casualties to the ISIS-K is in process,” the Afghan Presidential Palace said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday the bombing was “another successful job.”

The commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, defended the use of the bomb and confirmed the target of the strike was the network of tunnels that IS fighters use to move around and protect themselves from Afghan and US forces.

“This was the right weapon against the right target,” he said.

This is the third major military action the Trump administration has taken since assuming office on January 20, following a military raid in Yemen that left civilians and a US Marine dead and last week’s surprise strike on a Syrian airfield.

Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib said the colossal Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) was dropped after fighting had intensified over the last week.

Multiple Afghan officials previously said they had no information about the bombing before it happened.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington is “working with the government of Afghanistan and our partners in the region in order to deny any terrorist organisation — that includes Al Qaeda as well — a safe haven or any kind of material support on the ground.” (IANS)

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Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

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Islamic State
FILE - U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters sit atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Fighters and families with the Islamic State terror group are clinging to one last sliver of land next to the Euphrates River in Syria, using women, children and possible hostages as human shields in an effort to postpone defeat.

Human rights observers and officials with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say IS followers have been pushed out of the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz and taken refuge in what they describe as a collection of tents. Various officials have described the size of the camps as covering less than one square kilometer.

But efforts by the SDF to deal a final defeat to the terror group’s self-declared caliphate have been slowed due to the presence of the civilians, and efforts to negotiate a surrender have also gone nowhere.

Islamic State, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

Speaking at the White House on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that’ll be announced over the next 24 hours and many other things.”

In Munich, the top U.S. defense official offered a cautious assessment.

“We have eliminated the group’s hold on over 99 percent of the territory it once claimed as part of its so-called caliphate,” acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said during a Friday news conference with his German counterpart at the Munich Security Conference.

“We have ensured ISIS no longer holds the innocent people of Syria or Iraq in their murderous, iron fist,” he said, using an acronym for the terror group. “We have destroyed its ability to mass forces, and we have eliminated most of its leadership and significantly diminished its resources.”

Islamic State
FILE – Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

‘Despicable and ghastly acts’

Coalition officials Thursday described SDF efforts in and around Baghuz as “clearance operations,” warning that IS fighters had become so desperate that they were shooting at their wives and children as they sought to flee.

“These utterly despicable and ghastly acts further illustrate their barbaric nature and desperation,” Operation Inherent Resolve Deputy Commander, British Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, said in a statement.

“The end of the physical caliphate is at hand,” he added.

Some IS followers appear to have given up.

Monitors with the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 240 IS fighters surrendered this past week. The U.S.-led coalition and an SDF commander contacted by VOA could not confirm the claim.

They said the SDF also evacuated about 700 people, mostly women and children, from the terror group’s refuge outside Baghuz on Thursday, taking them by cars and trucks to secured areas away from the front.

Islamic State, Syria
FILE – Women and children fleeing from the last Islamic State group’s tiny pocket in Syria sit in the back of a truck near Baghuz, eastern Syria, Feb. 11, 2019. VOA

The SDF itself says over the past several weeks, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from IS.

But they say about 300 hardened IS fighters, many of them foreign, still remain, willing to fight to the death. And some SDF commanders say more civilians are being brought to the tent city, apparently from underground tunnels.

Observers late Thursday reported a resumption of shelling by the SDF and coalition forces, saying it appeared to be another attempt to convince the remaining IS holdouts to give up.

IS threat to remain

Still, even once the last pocket of IS-held territory is taken, U.S. and coalition officials warn the fight will not be over.

Top U.S. military officials have warned the terror group still has 20,000 to 30,000 followers, including fighters, spread across Syria and Iraq. And they worry about the ability of their Syrian partners, in particular, to keep IS in check once U.S. troops withdraw under plans announced by Trump.

The commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, told CNN on Friday he disagreed with Trump’s decision to call for U.S. forces to leave.

 

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FILE – U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, speaks to reporters during an unannounced visit to a military outpost in southern Syria, Oct. 22, 2018. VOA

“It would not have been my military advice at that particular time. … I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,” he said. “[The caliphate] still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network.”

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave. But so far, other coalition members, many of whom have no troops on the ground in Syria, have been unwilling to make any specific commitments.

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“I think there’s a tremendous desire to have a security arrangement or mechanism that doesn’t result in a security vacuum. What that is … is still being developed,” a senior defense official said Friday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“We’ve been pretty clear that this is going to be a deliberate withdrawal,” the official added. “There’s a timeline associated with that that’s conditions-based. We’ve said publicly on a number of occasions that it will be here in months, not weeks and not years.” (VOA)