Authorities in Afghanistan say that fresh airstrikes in an eastern volatile region have killed at least 34 Islamic State militants and destroyed a radio station the terrorist group was using for extremist propaganda.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said Monday the strikes targeted IS hideouts in Naziyan and Achin districts of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan.
“The station was broadcasting illegally across Nangarhar, spreading the group’s extremist messages and issuing threats to the people and governmental staffs,” according to a ministry statement.
Afghan and U.S. drones have previously knocked down several IS radio stations in the region but the group always manages to resume its broadcasts in several languages from another location.
IS Afghan chief killed
On Sunday, both Afghan and U.S. military officials confirmed the head of IS in Afghanistan, Sheikh Abdul Hasib, was killed in the April 27 combined attack against a cave-and-tunnel complex in Achin.
“The raid conducted by Afghan Special Security Forces [Ktah Khas], in partnership with U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, also resulted in the deaths of several other high ranking ISIS-K leaders and 35 ISIS-K fighters,” according to the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul.
The Syrian-based terrorist group refers to its extremist operations in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan as Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISK-P, while the U.S. military often refers to it as ISIS-K.
Hasib was appointed last year following the death of his predecessor, Hafiz Saeed Khan, in a U.S. drone strike in the same Afghan province.
Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson praised the successful joint operation as another important step in the relentless campaign to defeat IS in the country in 2017.
“This is the second ISIS-K emir [leader] we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters, Nicholson noted.
Islamic State has not yet commented on whether its chief for Afghanistan-Pakistan operations has been eliminated.
Afghan and U.S. officials said Hasib masterminded the March 8 attack against Kabul National Military Hospital, which killed around 50 people, including doctors.
The slain IS chief, they said, also directed fighters to behead local elders in front of their families and ordered the kidnapping of women and girls to force them to marry his loyalists.
“For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar, noted General Nicholson. "Any ISIS member that comes to Afghanistan will meet the same fate," he vowed.
U.S. and Afghan troops had been involved in an “intense” three-hour firefight that also killed two American forces, Pentagon officials said a day after the brutal April 27 raid.
"Within a few minutes of landing, our combined force came under intense fire from multiple directions and well-prepared fighting positions,” they added.
A counter-IS operation has been under way in Nangarhar since early March, and Afghan forces, with the help of U.S. counterparts, have killed or captured hundreds of fighters and liberated over half of the districts the terrorist group controlled in the province, according to the U.S. military.