Top Islamic State commander in Afghanistan killed in airstrike: officials

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—Photo by AFP


MazariSharif, Afghanistan:A high-ranking Islamic State commander in Afghanistan has been killed in an airstrike, officials said Saturday, as Afghan and US forces dial up attacks on the militant group.

Qari Hekmat was the top commander of IS’s Afghan franchise in the northern province of Jowzjan, where the group established a stronghold after coming under intense pressure in the eastern province of  Nangarhar.

Hekmat was killed Friday in an Afghan airstrike in Darzab district, the defence ministry said in a statement, describing him as “one of the key figures” for IS in northern Afghanistan.

He was involved in or responsible for “deadly terrorist attacks” and has been replaced by Mawlawi Habib-ul-Rahman, the ministry added.

Provincial governor Lutfullah Azizi confirmed Hekmat had been killed but said US Forces carried out the airstrike.

US Forces did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

“Our intelligence sources have identified his body. His death will affect the recruitment of Daesh and disperse IS fighters in Afghanistan’s north,” Azizi said.

Afghan and US forces have ramped up airstrikes and ground offensives against IS fighters in Jowzjan in recent months as the group seeks to expand its foothold in the country.—AFP