Small Wars Journal

Senior ISIS Leader Killed in Northern Afghanistan, Highlighting Shifting Militant Allegiances

Senior ISIS Leader Killed in Northern Afghanistan, Highlighting Shifting Militant Allegiances by Dan Lamothe – Washington Post

KABUL — The U.S. military said Monday that it has killed the senior leader of an Islamic State enclave in northern Afghanistan, highlighting an evolving fight that expanded more than a year ago after the militant left the Taliban in a dispute.

Qari Hikmatullah and his bodyguard were killed while walking in the Bal Chiragh district of Faryab province on Thursday, said Army Col. Lisa Garcia, a U.S. military spokeswoman. News of the strike began circulating in Afghan media and among local officials on Saturday, with some Afghan officials pinpointing its location a short distance over a provincial border in the Darzab district of Jowzjan province, about 275 miles northwest of Kabul.

Qari Hekmat, as Afghan officials commonly call him, was born in Uzbekistan, called Jowzjan home and spent years as a Taliban commander there.

The death draws attention to a remote area of Afghanistan where the Taliban and Islamic State fighters have battled each other. The Taliban attempted to mount an offensive last year to take back Hikmatullah’s district of Darzab and nearby areas. Hikmatullah’s group withstood the attacks, and Hikmatullah himself survived at least two assassination attempts by the Taliban, said one Afghan security official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The U.S. military said in its statement Monday that Hikmatullah “had a history of divided loyalties,” initially serving as a leader in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) before joining the Taliban and ultimately starting an Islamic State enclave. He is expected to be replaced by Mawlavi Habibul Rahman, another native Uzbek who has past ties with the Taliban, the U.S. statement said…

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