Leader of Afghan IS branch killed in US strike: Pentagon

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Wash­ing­ton, US - US forces have killed the head of the Is­lamic State group’s Afghanistan branch, the Pentagon said late on Fri­day, marking the third time in a year the fran­chise has lost its leader.

Abu Sayed was killed in a July 11 strike in Afghanistan’s north­east­ern prov­ince of Ku­nar on the head­quar­ters of IS-Kho­rasan Prov­ince (IS-K), which also killed ad­di­tional ex­trem­ists, the Pentagon said in a state­ment.

“You kill a leader of one of th­ese groups and it sets them back,” Pentagon chief Jim Mat­tis said. “It’s ob­vi­ously a vic­tory on our side in terms of set­ting them back. It’s the right direction.”

First emerg­ing in 2015, IS-K over­ran large parts of Nan­garhar and Ku­nar prov­inces, near the Pak­istan bor­der, but their part in the Afghan con­flict had been largely over­shad­owed by the op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban.

Afghan and US forces had killed Abu Sayed’s two pre­de­ces­sors atop the group’s Afghan branch - Hafiz Saeed in July 2016 and Ab­dul Ha­sib in late April of this year, the Pentagon said.

Ha­sib and other top mil­i­tant com­man­ders were killed in a joint raid by US Army Rangers and Afghan spe­cial forces.

At the time, the US military had said Ha­sib’s death would ‘help reach our goal of de­stroy­ing them in 2017’.

“We will con­tinue un­til they are an­ni­hi­lated. There is no safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan,” said Gen John Ni­chol­son, who leads US Forces-Afghanistan.

Pentagon of­fi­cials say the group now num­bers fewer than 1,000 in Afghanistan.

The com­pound used by Ha­sib in Nan­garhar prov­ince was not far from the spot where on April 13, the US military dropped the largest non-nu­clear bomb it has ever used in com­bat, hit­ting IS po­si­tions. The de­ploy­ment of the so-called Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) killed at least 95 ex­trem­ists.

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