A provincial police chief has claimed that airstrikes have killed more than two dozen Islamic State (IS) militants, including foreign fighters, in northern Afghanistan.
Speaking to Radio Free Afghanistan, Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani, police chief in northern Jawzjan Province, said unmanned aircraft targeted militant meetings in the remote Darzab district on January 2.
“Based on the specific target information, our aircraft targeted major meetings of Daesh in the village of Saradara and Alkhani [in Darzab district],” he said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym. “More than 26 people were killed in the attacks, which included some foreigners and prominent militant commanders, and many more were injured.”
Jawzjani said the dead included seven foreign militants. Three of these, he claimed, were French nationals while four were from neighboring Uzbekistan. It is not clear how Afghan authorities established the identities of the fighters within hours of an airstrike in a region largely controlled by IS for more than two years.
“The dead included famous militant commander Qari Zia, who was also known as Shuja. The other prominent militants were named as Yaqub and Shaikh, who was a judge and had recently arrived from [the IS enclave] in eastern Nangarhar Province,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.
He added there were rumors of some civilian casualties in the region. He told Radio Free Afghanistan that two civilians were also killed in the airstrikes because they had gone to one of the meetings to resolve a tribal problem.
Afghanistan’s independent Pajhwak news agency, however, quoted a local anti-militant commander, Dadullah, as saying 10 civilians including five women, four men, and a child were killed in an airstrike after IS militants stopped their vehicle to use it for transporting their comrades who were injured in previous air attacks.
Darzab, a strategic district that connects Sar-e Pol and Jawzjan provinces, has been under militant control for more than two years since renegade local Taliban commander Qari Hekmat joined the remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 2015. Last year, they extended their control to neighboring Qush-Teppa district. Their atrocities forced thousands of civilians to seek shelter in Sheberghan, a small town that serves as the administrative center or provincial capital of Jawzjan.
Jawzjani said Afghan forces are conducting ground operations against militants in various localities around the province, which borders Turkmenistan.
“Our air force is ready to strike the militants if we have credible information and specific coordinates about their hideouts,” he said.
– With reporting by pajhwok.com