WASHINGTON – The leader of ISIS in Afghanistan was killed in a U.S. strike against the group’s headquarters in the northeastern Kunar Province on Tuesday, the Defense Department said Friday.
Abu Sayed was the third leader of the group, known as ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), to be killed by U.S. forces over the past year. U.S. and Afghan forces launched an offensive against ISIS-K in early March to drive the group from the eastern Nangarhar Province, and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has said that the goal is to defeat ISIS-K in 2017.
“We will continue until they are annihilated. There is no safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said in a statement Friday.
Defense Department chief spokesperson Dana White described the operation as a raid in a statement, and said that the operation also had killed an undisclosed number of other ISIS-K members.
Sayed took over as emir after Abdul Hasib was killed in an April raid in Nangarhar Province by U.S. and Afghan forces. Several other high-level ISIS members and almost 35 other ISIS fighters also were killed. Two U.S. Army Rangers also were killed in the operation, potentially from friendly fire. Prior to that, then-emir Hafiz Sayed Khan was killed in a July 2016 U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar Province.
“You kill a leader of one of these groups and it sets them back for – you known – a day, a week, a month, depending on who it is and what kind of people are below him,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday. “So, it’s obviously a victory on our side in terms of setting them back. It’s the right direction.”