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Afghanistan ISIS leader ‘killed in Nangarhar airstrike’

A senior Islamic State – Khorasan Province leader was killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, according to officials.

“I can confirm that U.S. forces conducted a counterterrorism strike, August 25, in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization,” Lieutenant Colonel Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesperson for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission told The Defense Post.

Shah Hussein Mortazavi, the deputy spokesperson for the Afghan presidency, said Saad Erhabi, also called Abu Sayed Orakzai, was killed, Voice of America Dari reported.

In a tweet, Mortazavi referred to Erhabi as ISKP’s emir or leader.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in a statement that Erhabi and 10 other ISKP members died in a joint operation with Coalition forces near the Pakistan border, AFP reported. The statement referred to Erhabi as the emir of ISIS in Afghanistan.

Attaullah Khogyani, spokesperson for Nangarhar’s governor, said Erhabi was killed and added that he was originally a resident of Orakzai Agency, Khaama Press reported, referring to one of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

According to VOA, Khogyani said that 10 ISKP members were killed in the forested Khogyani area and that two camps were destroyed.

In a Facebook post, Nangarhar’s media office said Erhabi was killed in a joint operation.

Afghanistan’s ministry of defense tweeted that an airstrike was carried out in Khogyani district and nine ISKP insurgents were killed. It is unclear if this referred to the same strike.

Erhabi was reportedly the fourth wali or emir of ISKP.

However, a May report to the United Nations Security Council said that, according to Afghan officials, the overall leader of ISIS in Afghanistan was named Abu Sayed Bajauri.

The group’s first wali, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in an airstrike in the Achin district of Nangarhar on July 26, 2016. Khan’s replacement, Abdul Hasib, was killed in Nangarhar on April 2, 2017.

The third emir, Abu Sayed, was killed in a U.S. strike on the group’s headquarters in Kunar province on July 11, 2017.

Jowzjan province in the north, Sar-e-Pul and Farah in the west, Helmand in the south, and parts of eastern Nangarhar have been ISKP’s power bases in Afghanistan since it gained a foothold in 2015.

As many as 150 ISKP fighters surrendered to the Afghan army in Jowzjan province overnight on August 1. In April, the top ISKP commander in the northern province of Jowzjan, Qari Hekmat was killed in an Afghan airstrike in Darzab district.

Turning east: the rise of Islamic State’s Khorasan Province

Joanne Stocker contributed reporting. This post was updated on August 26.

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