The US killed the Islamic State’s deputy emir for its Khorasan province in a drone strike on July 6 in eastern Afghanistan, according to Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. If confirmed, the US has killed two deputy emirs of the Khorasan province since February.
The National Directorate of Security said that Afghan forces confirmed that “Gull Zaman,” the Khorasan province’s second in command, and his deputy, who was identified as “Jahanyar,” were killed in a strike in the Achin district in Nangarhar. The Khorasan is a region encompassing Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, Iran, and neighboring Central Asian countries. Five other jihadists are said to have been killed in the strike, according to TOLONews.
The US is reported to have launched two airstrikes against the Islamic State in the Achin district on July 6. A provincial official for Nangarhar said that upwards of 49 jihadists were killed in the two attacks.
The Islamic State has not released a statement confirming the death of its deputy emir for the province. The US military has not confirmed the death of Gull Zaman or announced that it launched airstrikes in Nangarhar.
Gull Zaman may be Gul Zamn Fateh, the Islamic State’s commander for the Khyber tribal agency in Pakistan. Gul Zamn Fateh was one of several mid-level commanders to defect from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and join the Islamic State in October 2014. The Islamic State officially accepted the Khorasan province into its fold in January 2014, and appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan as its emir. [See LWJ reports, Pakistani Taliban splinter group again pledges allegiance to Islamic State and Islamic State appoints leaders of ‘Khorasan province,’ issues veiled threat to Afghan Taliban.]
Despite Afghan officials’ claims of his position, it is unclear if Gull Zaman was the Khorasan province’s deputy emir. The Islamic State did not openly name a successor to Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, the former number two who was killed on Feb. 9 in a US airstrike. Khadim was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay who defected from the Afghan Taliban to join the Islamic State. [See LWJ report, Islamic State in ‘Khorasan Province’ issues video eulogizing slain commander Abdul Rauf Khadim.]
Additionally, the Afghan Army claimed it killed Hafiz Wahidi, the alleged replacement for Khadim, during an operation in Helmand province in mid-March. It is unclear if Wahidi, who Afghan officials claimed was the nephew of Khadim, replaced his uncle to serve as the deputy leader of Khorasan province. [See LWJ report, Islamic State in ‘Khorasan province’ commander killed in southern Afghanistan.]
The Islamic State has made inroads into Nangarhar province at the expense of the Taliban. Over the past six months, the Islamic State has battled with the Taliban for control over the province, and is said to have assassinated the Taliban’s shadow governor for Nangarhar. The Islamic State is said to have a strong presence in nine of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.
The infighting between the two jihadist groups led Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, to issue an appeal to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State, to end the discord and submit to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” or the Taliban.
Mansour released his statement to Baghdadi on June 16. He argued that divisions in the ranks of the jihadists in Afghanistan and elsewhere leads to infighting, which harms all Muslims.
“Now if there is an attempt to create another jihadist group or another leadership, it will clearly pave the way for differences and division,” Mansour stated. “That is why the Islamic Emirate says that jihadist activity in Afghanistan should only be under the Emirate leadership.” [See LWJ report, Taliban chastise Islamic State for dividing jihadist ranks in Afghanistan and beyond.]
Mansour said that clashes between the two groups in places such as Nangarhar only benefits “the invading crusaders,” or the US and NATO.
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