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IS leader in Afghanistan killed by US-led coalition strikes

Estimates of IS members in the country run as high as around 2,000 [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 August, 2018

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Saad Arhabi died in a joint operation with coalition forces late Saturday in the group's eastern stronghold in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan.

The leader of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan has been killed by airstrikes over the weekend, along with ten other militants according to government official reports.

Saad Arhabi died in a joint operation with coalition forces late Saturday in the group's eastern stronghold in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan reported the Afghan intelligence agency, following a series of deadly attacks by the group.

"The Emir of Daesh in Afghanistan along with 10 others was killed," said a statement by the National Directorate of Security, calling the group by an Arabic acronym.

The operation makes Arhabi the fourth leader of the IS Afghan branch to be killed since the group first emerged in the country around 2014.

A large number of weapons, ammunition and explosives were also destroyed by the air attacks.

Provincial governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani confirmed the leader's death, also citing a joint operation involving strikes.

US forces in Afghanistan confirmed they had conducted a strike in the location described by Afghan officials, which "targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation".

IS has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan, mainly in Nangarhar but more recently in the northern province of Jowzjan.

Hours before the raid the group claimed a deadly suicide attack which appeared to target a sit-in protest outside an election commission office in the city of Jalalabad, in which two people were killed.

The bombing followed a number of bloody attacks claimed by IS in recent weeks, including assaults on several government installations in Kabul and a bombing at a school in a Shia area of the capital that killed at least 37 people.

The group, however, has suffered repeated setbacks in the latest fighting season amid a bloody turf war with the much larger Taliban.

Estimates of their numbers in the country run as high as around 2,000.

More than 150 IS fighters surrendered to Afghan forces in Jowzjan on 1 August, a move which troops and the Taliban hailed as the end of the group’s foothold in the north of the country.

President Ashraf Ghani has offered a conditional three-month ceasefire to the Taliban, although the militant group are yet to respond to the offer.

The Taliban is said to be nominally open to a peaceful end to conflict, and is due to attend talks in Russia in a new bid to end fighting that has raged since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

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