US strike kills Islamic State commander in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A U.S. strike over the weekend killed a senior Islamic State commander in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan and U.S. officials said Monday.
The strike in Nangarhar province killed Abu Sayeed Orakzai, a senior leader in the extremist group, according to Shah Hussain Martazawi, deputy spokesman for the Afghan presidency. He said the operation showed the government’s “determination to fight terrorism.”
Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said American forces launched a counterterrorism strike in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday that targeted a “senior leader of a designated terrorist organization.” He did not provide further details.
“These efforts target the real enemies of Afghanistan, the same enemies who threaten America,” he said.
Orakzai, who also known as Abu Saad Erhabi, was the head of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. Erhabi was killed alongside nine other members of the militant group in the attack, the official said.
An IS affiliate that emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 has carried out scores of attacks targeting security forces and the country’s Shiite minority. Even with U.S. and NATO support, Afghan security forces have struggled to combat IS and the more well-established Taliban.
Separately in northern Faryab province, three Afghan army soldiers were killed and five others wounded after their convoy was ambushed by Taliban insurgents, said Hanif Rezaie, an army spokesman for the country’s north.
Several army vehicles were damaged in the attack and dozens of insurgents were killed during air strikes conducted by the army, Rezaie said. He added that an army unit has been deployed to Qaisar district to prevent further Taliban attacks on Faryab province.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. He said that in addition to “killing and wounding tens of troops” and setting several military vehicles on fire, their fighters also seized munitions from the army convoy.
Less than two weeks ago the Taliban attacked the Camp Chinaya army base in Ghormach district. Spokesman for the Defense Ministry Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed confirmed at the time that 17 troops were killed and at least 19 others wounded.
The Taliban had besieged the base, which housed about 140 Afghan troops, for three days before their assault, according to the local provincial council chief, Mohammad Tahir Rahmani.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid claimed responsibility for that attack.
Also Monday, two military pilots were shot and killed by unknown gunmen in the capital Kabul, according Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for the Defense Ministry.
The attackers were able to flee and an investigation is underway, added Radmanish.