ISLAMABAD - Afghan officials say a month-long military operation, backed by American air power, has killed at least 250 Islamic State militants in an eastern province bordering Pakistan.
A regional military spokesman spoke to VOA at the conclusion of the anti-IS offensive that focused on the Kot and Deh Bala districts of Nangarhar, where the fatalities occurred. Several villages in the area have now been cleared of Daesh (IS) fighters, according to the spokesman, using an Arabic acronym for the Middle East-based jihadist group.
The anti-terrorism operation, dubbed “Shaheen 20,” also rescued 26 hostages and captured at least 15 militants, according to a statement by the 201 Selab Military Corps in Nangarhar.
The U.S. military says IS loyalists are active in mainly southern districts of the province as it acknowledged recent Afghan successes against the group.
IS launched its regional operation two years ago and up to 3,000 militants linked to the group were initially active in about 11 districts of Nangarhar, says U.S. Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Joint operations over the past year have killed a large number of the fighters, including top IS leadership, according to Cleveland.
“We believe that there are approximately 700 members of ISIS, perhaps even less now based on the operations, that are still contained to less than three districts down in southern Nangarhar,” he said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
While the U.S. military maintains the terrorist group is active mostly in Nangarhar and parts of neighboring Kunar province, Afghan officials have reported the presence of IS in other provinces, including violence-hit southern Zabul.