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Afghan and US special operations forces raid in Darzab kills 22 ISKP fighters

Afghan Special Security Forces backed by U.S. special operations forces “eliminated” 22 Islamic State – Khorasan Province fighters in a nightime raid in Darzab district, Jowzjan province on Wednesday, NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in a Sunday, April 15 press release.

The U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service published video of the raid.

Provincial deputy police chief Colonel Abdul Hafeez Khashi said six villages were cleared of ISKP in the operation and that clashes continued in Bibi Maryam, Sardar and Mughal areas of Darzab, Pajhwok Afghan News reported on April 12.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense said on April 15 that 20 Islamic State militants, including local commander Mohammad Yusuf, were killed in an Afghan National Army airstrike in Darzab district in the previous 24 hours, TOLOnews reported. A further 17 were wounded in later clearing operations, the statement said.

“The recent Afghan and U.S. special operations raid will lead to the tactical defeat of IS-K in northern Afghanistan,” said General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan using another acronym for ISKP. “Pockets of former Taliban fighters may claim allegiance to IS-K, but they are isolated and losing. We have them on the defensive. They will not win.”

The April 11 operation was conducted just six days after ISKP commander Qari Hekmat was killed in the same district in northern Afghanistan. Like Hekmat, ISKP’s new leader in northern Afghanistan is Mawlavi Habibul ul-Rahman is an Uzbek, and has “had intermittent ties to both the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” the release said.

U.S. and Afghan forces have ramped up airstrikes and ground offensives against ISKP in Jowzjan in recent months as the group seeks to expand its foothold in the country.

According to the Resolute Support release, Afghan and U.S. forces have killed 90 ISKP fighters this year, the majority in Darzab.

In January, Afghan forces captured Khitab Aka, ISKP’s “head facilitator of foreign forces.” Two months later, his successors, Omair and Abu Samaya, were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Sar-e-Pul province.

On April 11, the Afghan MoD tweeted that eight insurgents including one French national were killed and three others wounded in operations in Darzab. Last month, Afghan security forces detained a French woman fighting for ISKP in the same district of Jowzjan. AFP has reported that French and Algerian fighters, some arriving from Syria, have joined ISKP in the restive province.

Afghan and U.S. special operations forces killed an ISKP commander and another fighter during a partnered nighttime raid in Mughul, on March 26-27, and on March 22, Afghan and U.S. special operations forces “eliminated” four IS-K fighters in Darzab, the Resolute Support release said. On March 16, a nighttime raid on the ISKP headquarters in Jowzjan “resulted in the removal of another 13 terrorists.”

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