Ayaz Gul - VOA News
ISLAMABAD - A drone strike has killed the leader of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abdu Saad Erhabi, along with his nine commanders.
The overnight missile attack occurred in the Khogyani district of the troubled eastern Nangarhar province where the terrorist group, locally known as ISK-P, is headquartered.
Provincial government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told VOA the strike also destroyed two of the group's bases.
Afghan intelligence officials said international forces assisted in the counter-terrorism operation.
A U.S. military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell, confirmed to VOA U.S. forces conducted a counter-terrorism strike Saturday that "targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization."
Afghan Presidential Spokesman Shahussain Murtazawi tweeted the strike dealt a "major blow to Daesh in Afghanistan" and it also demonstrated the resolve of the Afghan government against terrorism. He used the Arabic acronym Daesh for the Middle Eastern-based terrorist group.
Erhabi is the fourth leader of ISK-P to have been killed since the group launched its extremist activities in Afghanistan in early 2015 from bases in Nangarhar next to the border with neighboring Pakistan.
ISK-P militants have been plotting deadly suicide bombings in the war-shattered country and battling U.S. backed Afghan forces as well as the Taliban insurgency.
U.S. military commanders maintain ISK-P operates several southern districts in Nangahrar and in parts of the adjoining Kunar province. The militants had also established a strong base in the northern Afghan province of Jowzjan near the border with the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan.
But Taliban insurgents early this month eliminated ISK-P from the province after a month-long offensive against the rival group, killing and capturing a large number of its fighters.
Afghan authorities confirmed at the time about 250 militants surrendered to government forces after fleeing the Taliban onslaught in Jowzjan.
Kabul estimates the number of ISK-P fighters in the country is not more than 2,000 and downplays Russia's assertions the terrorist group is increasing its influence in Afghanistan and the number of its fighters is more than 10,000.
Moscow is worried about the emergence of ISK-P in parts of Afghanistan that border Russian-allied Central Asian states.