Afghan officials say a senior commander of the Islamic State (IS) militants has been killed in the southern Afghan province of Zabul.
Gul Islam Siyal, a spokesman for the governor of Zabul, told Radio Free Afghanistan on April 25 that IS commander Ahmadullah Akhundzada and three associates were killed during a joint offensive by the Afghan special forces and members of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission late on April 24.
“Late last night, the joint operation unfolded in Zabul’s Khak-e Afghan district. Most of the activities revolve around sorties and airstrikes,” he said. “We have received reports that four IS fighters including commander Ahmadullah Akhundzada were killed in the attack.”
It was not possible to independently verify Siyal’s claims.
Earlier this year, officials in Zabul claimed disparate fighters associated with IS have established camps in Zabul.
Provincial police chief Mirwais Noorzai said the group, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq, was training new recruits in the remote mountainous districts of Zabul to deploy them to new front lines across Afghanistan.
“We have some of the world’s nastiest militants here. These include Uzbeks and Kazaks [from Central Asia] and Punjabis [from Pakistan],” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Their training camps are outside the areas we control. We are now talking to the central government to launch an offensive against them.”
Afghan officials say IS fighters, mostly former Central Asian members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Pakistanis, have been operating in Khak-e Afghan, Daichopan, and Argahndab districts. Kabul has little control over the three mountainous and sparsely populated districts.
IS first emerged in Afghanistan in early 2015. It soon overran many districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Afghan officials say nearly two years of operations against the group has forced it to take shelter in remote Nangarhar mountains.
Last week, Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said a massive U.S. bomb dropped on an IS cave complex in Nangarhar’s Achin district early this month killed IS fighters from Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, India, and other countries.
Pentagon and Afghan officials said the GBU-43 bomb killed 96 IS militants including four key IS leaders on April 13. The bomb is nicknamed MOAB, for "massive ordnance air blast" or "mother of all bombs," for its destructive potential.
-- Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mohammad Sadiq Rashtinai reported this story from Kandahar, Afghanistan.