The head of ISIL in Afghanistan was killed in an operation led by Afghan Special Forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar last month, US military officials confirmed on Sunday.
Abdul Hasib – appointed last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a US drone strike – is believed to have ordered a series of high-profile attacks, including one in March on the main military hospital in Kabul by a group of fighters disguised as doctors.
US military officials in Afghanistan have previously said Hasib’s death would “significantly degrade” the group’s operations and “help reach our goal of destroying them in 2017”.
Last month, a Pentagon spokesman said Hasib had probably been killed during a raid by US and Afghan Special Forces in Nangarhar, during which two US Army Rangers were killed. But there was no confirmation.
The compound was located near the tunnel complex where the US military on April 13 dropped its largest non-nuclear device, killing 94 fighters, including four commanders.
Afghanistan’s government confirmed Hasib’s death on April 27.
“He had ordered the attack on 400 bed hospital in Kabul that resulted in the death and injuries of a number of our countrymen, women. The Afghan government is committed to continuing its operations against Daesh and other terrorist groups until they are annihilated,” it said in a statement, using another name for ISIL.
The local affiliate of ISIL – sometimes known as ISIL Khorasan (ISIL-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan – has been active since 2015, fighting both the Taliban as well as Afghan and US forces.
It is believed to maintain links with the main ISIL group in Iraq and Syria, but has considerable operational independence.
“If it is true that American and Afghan security forces managed to kill the head of ISIL in Afghanistan that would be a big victory… but it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of ISIL here,” Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy said, reporting from Kabul.
American and Afghan Special Forces, backed by drone strikes and other air support, have waged a series of operations against ISIL-K this year, killing dozens of fighters, mainly in Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.
The Pentagon estimates about 1,000 ISIL-K fighters remain in Afghanistan.