U.S. forces have killed the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch in Afghanistan, according to a statement posted Sunday by the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
During an Aug. 25 strike on Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border, U.S. forces said they targeted and killed Abu Saad Orakzai. He is the third leader of the Islamic State–Khorasan group to have been killed by U.S. forces since July 2016, according to the statement.
“America and her allies are in Afghanistan to maintain pressure on the networked, trans-regional terrorists attempting to plot, resource and direct attacks from here,” said U.S. Army Gen.Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “This is only part of the coalition’s work towards and Afghan security solution, but it is a vital part.” Miller took over the post from Army Gen. John Nicholson on Sunday.
Orakzai, also known as Abu Saad Erhabi, was the emir of the Islamic State–Khorasan, the ISIS affiliate operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was believed to have led a force of 2,000 fighters, according to the Times.
The National Directorate of Security in Kabul had previously reported that Orakzai was among 10 people killed in a ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces. The U.S. military did not confirm the senior terrorist leader was targeted in the operation until Sunday.
Orakzai’s predecessor, Abdul Hasib, was killed in a raid in Afghanistan last year, about nine months after the U.S. confirmed the faction’s former leader Hafiz Saeed Khan had been killed in an airstrike.