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Senior ISIS propagandist killed by US airstrike in Afghanistan, US military says

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 17, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. airstrike has killed a senior media official belonging to the Afghan branch of the Islamic State group, the U.S. military said Friday. 

In addition to killing Jawad Khan, the strike in Nangarhar province on June 3 also destroyed a major ISIS media production hub, which will disrupt the affiliate’s connection to ISIS leadership in Syria, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement.

Khan has been described as a senior communicator, experienced media production director and a skilled propagandist for ISIS in Afghanistan, known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province.

“His death will disrupt the ISIS-K network, degrade their recruitment process and hinder their attempts to conduct international operations,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in the statement.

“There is no safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan. With our Afghan partners we will continue to aggressively target ISIS-K and defeat them,” Nicholson said.

At the start of the year, the United States said its primary focus in Afghanistan in 2017 was to eliminate ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks across the country.

USFOR-A estimates the group is comprised of fewer than 1,000 fighters who are mostly restricted to Nangarhar. At the beginning of 2016, it was believed up to 3,000 ISIS members were active in Afghanistan.

In a sign of its commitment to eradicate the group, the United States in April dropped the largest conventional bomb ever used in combat on a complex of ISIS tunnels in Nangarhar.

But the threat posed by the militants continues.

On Thursday, suicide bombers attacked a crowded Shiite mosque in Kabul killing at least four people and wounding several others. ISIS claimed responsibility.

The attack came just days after Afghan officials reported fighting between the group’s loyalists and the Taliban in Tora Bora, a cave complex in Nangarhar once used by Osama bin Laden. ISIS said they had captured the hideout from the Taliban, which would be a significant strategic and symbolic victory for the group. However, the Taliban refuted the claims.

On Saturday, an Afghan official told The Associated Press that government forces had recaptured Tora Bora, killing nearly two dozen ISIS fighters.

It was unclear if fighting would continue.

Khan was the latest high-profile ISIS leader to be killed by Afghan and U.S. counterterrorism forces. The group’s emir Hafiz Sayed Khan and his successor Abdul Hasib were also killed in recent months.

USFOR-A said no civilian casualties resulted from the latest strike that killed Khan.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com

Twitter: @PhillipWellman

 

An Afghan farmer works on his field, on the outskirts of the village of Madakhel in northeastern Afghanistan, near the mountain region of Tora Bora on Dec. 28, 2001. Afghan officials reported fighting in Tora Bora, a cave complex in Nangarhar province.
ENRIC MARTI/AP

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