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US kills senior Islamic State leader in Afghanistan strike

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 13, 2017

A U.S. airstrike killed several senior members of the Islamic State group’s affiliate operating in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The Thursday strike in Kunar province killed Abdul Rahman, who U.S. Forces-Afghanistan in a statement identified as the provincial emir for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the Central Asian ISIS offshoot.

“The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in the country, said in the statement. “He found out just like those before him that there are no safe havens in Afghanistan.”

Three other unnamed senior members of the group were also killed in the strike, the military said.

U.S. forces have made it a goal to defeat ISIS-K in Afghanistan this year.

“We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region,” Nicholson said.

U.S. officials said Rahman was a top candidate to become the group’s fourth leader, after Abu Sayed was killed in a strike on his headquarters in Kunar last month. Sayed was the group’s third emir to be killed in about a year, after U.S. and Afghan forces killed Hafiz Sayed Khan in late July 2016 and Abdul Hasib in late April.

A separate U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar on Thursday killed “a number of militants” loading weapons into a vehicle, the military said, denying allegations that it had caused civilian casualties.

“There was zero chance of civilian casualties,” said Bob Purtiman, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, in a statement released Saturday.

Though U.S. and Afghan forces have scored several battlefield successes against the group, ISIS-K has continued to carry out bloody attacks around Afghanistan, including in the country’s capital of Kabul, where the militants have attacked a large military hospital and the Iraqi embassy.

U.S.-backed forces in Iraq continue to battle the group, which still controls several enclaves in the country after government forces drove it from its last major urban stronghold in Mosul in July.

Iraqi forces, backed by the U.S.-led international coalition, are preparing to retake the ISIS-held town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.

garland.chad@stripes.com

Twitter: @chadgarland

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