US air strike kills senior Islamic State commanders in Afghanistan
General John Nicholson says latest raid dealt a blow to the militant group
Several senior members of Islamic State’s central Asian affiliate were killed in a US air strike in Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.
The attack on Thursday killed Abdul Rahman, identified by the US military as the Kunar provincial emir for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K), according to a statement from the command in Kabul.
“The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K,” said General John Nicholson, the senior US commander in Afghanistan.
Three other senior ISIS-K members were also among those killed in the strike in eastern Kunar province.
Nicholson vowed to defeat Islamic State militants in Afghanistan this year. The group’s emir, Abu Sayed, was reported killed in a strike on his headquarters in Kunar in July, the third Islamic State emir in Afghanistan to be killed since July 2016.
In April, Nicholson deployed a 21,600-pound “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” bomb against the militant group’s positions in neighbouring Nangarhar province, one of the largest conventional weapons ever used by the US in combat.
On Saturday, Afghan officials said as many as 16 civilians, including women and children, had been killed by a US air strike in Nangarhar, but American officials said only militants were killed.
As part of an increased campaign against both Islamic State and the Taliban – the dominant Islamist militant group in Afghanistan – the US Air Force had dropped nearly 2,000 weapons in the country by the end of July, compared to less than 1,400 in all of 2016.
Despite some battlefield successes by Afghan and American special operations troops, Islamic State has continued deadly attacks around Afghanistan, fuelling fears that it is seeking to bring the group’s Middle East conflict to Central Asia.