The head of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abu Sayeed Orakzai, has been killed in a U.S. strike, according to Afghan officials. The U.S. military said the strike took place in Nangarhar province, close to the Pakistan border.
“I can confirm that U.S. forces conducted a counterterrorism strike … which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesperson for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
O’Donnell also pointed to comments via Twitter by a deputy spokesperson of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Orakzai, described as the emir of ISIS in Afghanistan, had died in the strike.
The U.S. has killed a succession of ISIS leaders in Afghanistan. In July 2017, the Pentagon said a strike killed Abu Sayed — the heir to Abdul Hasib, who died three months earlier. A drone strike in July 2016 killed Hafiz Sayed Khan.
Discussing the operation, O’Donnell drew a distinction between counter-terrorism efforts against the Taliban and groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS-K, or ISIS-Khorasan, a name for the extremist group’s outpost in Afghanistan.
“These efforts are unlike the nationwide Afghan-led offensive targeting Taliban irreconcilables who refuse to listen to the calls of the Afghan people for them to take the courageous step towards peace and reconciliation,” he said. “These efforts target the real enemies of Afghanistan, the same enemies who threaten America.”