Pakistan confirmed Monday that separate counterterrorism raids near the Afghan border within the past week had killed two senior leaders of a regional Islamic State affiliate known as Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K).
Military officials identified the slain militant commanders as Surat Gul and Abdul Shakoor, also known as Abu Hamza. Both were targeted in intelligence-driven security operations in northwestern Khyber and southwestern Qila Saifullah districts.
Interim Pakistani Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar told reporters in Islamabad that Abu Hamza had plotted two back-to-back bomb attacks against campaign gatherings in Qila Saifullah and the nearby Pishin border districts on the eve of national elections held last Thursday.
“On the second day of the elections, February 9, an operation was conducted, and a prominent leader of Daesh was neutralized and eliminated in the same Qila Saifullah district,” Kakar said, referring to the killing of Abu Hamza.
Daesh is an Arabic acronym for IS-K, which the United States and the United Nations say is operating out of bases in Afghanistan.
The bombings in Pishin and Qila Saifullah collectively killed nearly 30 people. Both districts are part of the southwestern Baluchistan province, which shares nearly half of the country’s 2,600-kilometer-long (1616 miles) border with Afghanistan.
Gul was killed Sunday in a shootout with Pakistani security forces during a raid against his hideout in the northwestern Khyber border district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to a military statement.
The statement said the “terrorist ringleader” was involved in “numerous terrorist activities including [the] target killing of innocent civilians” and “was highly wanted by the law enforcement agencies.”
IS-K has confirmed the death of Gul in a gunfight with Pakistani security forces, but it has not commented on the fate of Abu Hamza.
The United Nations said in a report last month that while a “high concentration of terrorist groups in Afghanistan” was a cause of concern for member states, the “greatest threat within Afghanistan still comes from ISIL-K, with its ability to project into the region and beyond.”
ISIL-K is another acronym for IS-K.
The ruling Taliban in Afghanistan claim their security forces have eliminated IS-K bases nationwide and degraded the group's ability to threaten national security and that of the region.
“Member States assessed that, despite the recent loss of territory, casualties, and high attrition among senior and mid-tier leadership figures, ISIL-K continued to pose a major threat in Afghanistan and the region,” the U.N. report noted.