Airstrikes destroy Islamic State radio station in eastern Afghanistan
KABUL — An Islamic State radio station in eastern Afghanistan that has been on the air for several months has been destroyed in a U.S. airstrike, officials and media reports said Tuesday.
“The Daesh FM radio station was destroyed in an attack by jets” on Monday, said Hazarat Husain Mashraqiwal, police spokesman for Nangarhar province. Daesh is an acronym for Islamic State.
Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, told various media outlets that 29 members of the Islamic State, including five who worked for the radio, were killed in the strikes.
The mobile station, known as the Voice of the Caliphate, was based in the remote Achin district of Nangarhar province, along the mountainous border with Pakistan. It began intermittent broadcasts in late 2015.
The Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed that the station had been taken off the air but provided no further details.
Citing an unnamed U.S. military official, The Associated Press reported that the radio station was destroyed by two U.S. airstrikes.
Col. Michael Lawhorn, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said the U.S. carried out two counterterrorism strikes in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, but declined to confirm that they had targeted the station. He added that this was not the first time U.S. aircraft had struck terrorist targets in that area.
Because the nascent Afghan air force lacks significant ground attack capabilities, coalition warplanes have been used several times in the past year to provide ground support for government forces in combat with Taliban guerrillas, and also to hit other terrorist groups.
The Afghan air force, which has not operated jet fighter-bombers since it was re-established in 2007, this month received the first batch of four Embraer-SNC A-29 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft. The rest of the 20 planes on order are supposed to be delivered this year. The turboprop plane, which has not yet been used operationally, is optimized for counterinsurgency missions and can carry a variety of bombs and rockets.
The Islamic State, whose forces have overrun large swaths of Syria and Iraq, has established a limited presence in the inaccessible eastern region along the Pakistani border. Authorities say most of its estimated 1,000 fighters in Nangarhar are “rebranded” Taliban or Pakistani militants.
The Islamic State’s station broadcasts focused mainly on recruiting new fighters and threatening government officials and Taliban insurgents who have clashed with the new group.
Residents in Nangarhar’s capital of Jalalabad said it ceased broadcasting Monday evening.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.