Afghan intelligence officials said Saturday that a US airstrike killed the top leader of a local Islamic State affiliate and more than 30 other militants near the country’s rugged eastern border with Pakistan. US officials confirmed they carried out the strike, but declined to say whether they killed the leader.
The strike in Nangarhar province killed Islamic State affiliate leader Hafiz Saeed and others on Friday, said Abdul Hassib Sediqi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. Sediqi said Afghan intelligence officials provided information to US forces, who carried out the strike.
“Hafiz Saeed, ISIS leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan was killed in a drone strike last night,” Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security confirmed in a statement Saturday.
“As a result of drone strike in Achin district on gathering place of Daesh, 30 people associated with Daesh including their leader Hafiz Seed were killed,” the statement said using the group’s Arabic name.
NATO officials declined to immediately comment on the claim, saying they would issue a statement later Saturday. US Army Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, confirmed Americans carried out an airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin District, but declined to comment further.
Two IS-affiliated commanders in Afghanistan who said they were present when the strike happened confirmed Saeed’s death to AFP. The strike took place while a meeting of the commanders was going on, they said, adding that Saeed’s badly mutilated body was buried soon afterwards.
The operation comes less than six months after a drone strike in Afghanistan killed Abdul Rauf Khadim, who was thought to be the IS number two in the country.
On Monday two US drone strikes in Achin targeted suspected IS militants, killing 49 people according to local officials.
Fierce clashes have been reported in recent months between fighters newly aligned with IS and Taliban cadres determined to preserve their dominance.
NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in December, leaving local forces to battle the Taliban alone, but a residual force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.