Tue, May 09, 2017 - Page 7 News List

IS in Afghanistan’s leader reported killed last month

AFP, KABUL

An Afghan security official yesterday sits in a truck during an operation against the Islamic State group in Chaparhar District, Nangarhar Province.

Photo: EPA

The head of the Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan — described as the mastermind behind high-profile attacks including an assault on a military hospital that claimed at least 50 lives — has been killed, US and Afghan officials said.

Abdul Hasib, whose group is affiliated with IS in Iraq and Syria, was killed last month in a targeted raid by special forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the presidential palace in Kabul said in a statement.

The second leader of the militant group to be killed by US and Afghan forces in less than nine months, his death came days after Washington dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on IS hideouts in the same area.

Analysts described him as “obscure,” but authorities ascribed responsibility to him for high-profile assaults in Kabul, including the savage attack on a military hospital in March when assailants stabbed bedridden patients and threw grenades into crowded wards.

“He had ordered the attack” on the hospital, the presidential statement said, adding that Kabul will fight IS and other extremist groups “until they are annihilated.”

NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson confirmed the killing of Hasib and said that “any ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] member that comes to Afghanistan will meet the same fate.”

“This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters,” he added, using the acronym for the group’s local affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan Province.

The first, Hafiz Saeed, was killed in a US airstrike in Nangarhar Province in July last year. Like Hasib, his death was seen as a setback, but not a mortal blow to the group.

“The death of Abdul Hasib does not make a difference for the Daesh group in Afghanistan,” Kabul-based writer and analyst Ahmad Saeedi said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

They will simply put another leader in place, he said.

“Dozens of Daesh fighters have been killed in eastern Afghanistan, but it did not bring positive change,” he said.

First emerging in Afghanistan in 2015, the group overran large parts of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, near the Pakistan border.

Their part in the Afghan conflict had been largely overshadowed by the much stronger Taliban. However, their profile grew as they claimed responsibility for a series of bloody attacks, notably in Kabul, including the audacious hospital assault in March.

The US Forces-Afghanistan said that defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the local IS presence from a peak of as many as 3,000 fighters to 800 at most.

There has still been no official word from NATO forces on the toll from the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, dubbed the “Mother of All Bombs,” dropped in Nangarhar last month.

The blast killed at least 95 militants, according to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, but NATO officials have said they are still assessing the damage. Journalists have been prevented from reaching the blast site.

With roughly one-third of the country outside government control, Afghan security forces have faced soaring casualties as they struggle to contain the resurgent militant group.

The Pentagon is to ask the White House next week to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban, a senior official said on Thursday.

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