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Head of Islamic State in Afghanistan reportedly killed in strike by joint military operation

A U.S. Army soldier uses a cruise system at a checkpoint on July 7 during a patrol against Islamic State militants at the Deh Bala district in the eastern province of Nangarhar Province. (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. military forces helped carry out a strike in Afghanistan that killed a “senior leader of a designated terrorist organization,” Lt. Colonel Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, stated in a Reuters report.

Abu Saad Erhabi, the head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, was killed in a strike on the group’s hideouts in Nangarhar province on Saturday night, in a joint ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces, the news outlet reported.

Were other militants killed?

Ten other members of the militant group were also killed, the National Directorate of Security in Kabul said in a statement. Raids on two Islamic State hideouts resulted in the destruction of a large number of heavy and light weapons and ammunition.

The jihadi group’s Amaq’s news agency did not report anything about it, the report said.

Erhabi was the fourth Islamic State leader in Afghanistan to be killed since July 2017, the provincial governor of Nangarhar reportedly said. The group has a stronghold “in Nangarhar, on Afghanistan’s porous eastern border with Pakistan, and become one of the country’s most dangerous militant groups,” Reuters reported.

The local affiliate of Islamic State, also called the Islamic State Khorasan after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has been fighting the Taliban, Afghan and U.S. forces since 2015, according to the report. Abu Sayed, a former ISIS-K leader, was killed in a strike in the eastern province of Nangarhar and Sayed’s predecessors were killed by joint U.S. and Afghan operations.

How many Islamic fighters are there?

The U.S. military estimates there is a total of about 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, the report said. It’s difficult to calculate an exact number because they frequently switch allegiances, it added.

This month, more than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces in the northwestern province of Jawzjan. The group is fighting there for control of smuggling routes into neighboring Turkmenistan, according to the report.

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