A former detainee at Guantanamo Bay who was one of the first jihadists to defect to the Islamic State in the Afghan-Pakistan region has denied reports that the group’s emir for its Khorasan province was killed last week in a US airstrike.
Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, who was detained at Guantanamo for three years, “rejected the killing of Hafiz Saeed Khan,” the emir for Khorasan province, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. Dost denied Saeed’s death in a telephone interview with the Afghan news organization.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) claimed that the United States killed Saeed in a July 10 airstrike in the Achin district in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The NDS also said that 30 Islamic State fighters were killed in the strike. [See LWJ report, Afghan intelligence claims US killed Islamic State’s emir for Khorasan province.]
Saeed is one of five mid-level commanders from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan to defect and join the Islamic State last year. He commanded Taliban forces in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Arakzai. In January, the Islamic State appointed him emir for its Khorasan province, which encompasses areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and neighboring Central Asian countries.
Dost did confirm that the US killed two senior members of the Islamic State: Gul Zaman, Khorasan province’s deputy emir, and Shaykh Maqbool, the group’s spokesman who is better known as Shahidullah Shahid, in a different airstrike in Nangarhar last week. Zaman’s lieutenant, Jahanyar, is also said to have been killed. [See LWJ reports, Deputy emir of Islamic State’s Khorasan province reported killed in US drone strike, and Islamic State’s spokesman for Khorasan province thought killed in US airstrike.]
The US has launched a series of airstrikes in Nangarhar over the past two weeks that have targeted Islamic State fighters who have gathered there. The Islamic State has been battling its rival, the Taliban, for control of the key province. According to Afghan press reports, more than 150 Islamic State fighters have been killed, but the number cannot be independently confirmed.
The NDS is reported to have established a task force to target the Islamic State, as the jihadist organization is increasingly becoming more dangerous in Afghanistan.
Dost had “a vision” of the establishment of the Islamic State
Dost has a pedigree of jihadist activities stretching back to the last 1970s. He was detained in Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay for three years. US officials at Guantanamo determined Dost “poses a low risk, due to his medical condition,” and no longer considered him an enemy combatant. In 2004, he was transferred to the Afghan government, which subsequently released him. [See LWJ report, Ex-Gitmo ‘poet’ now recruiting for the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan.]
Like many other detainees released from Guantanamo, Dost immediately resumed his jihadist activities. Pakistani officials detained Dost in 2006, but freed him as part of a prisoner exchange for Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan in 2008.
Dost was the first high-profile jihadist leader outside of Iraq and Syria to defect from al Qaeda’s sphere of influence to the Islamic State. He swore allegiance to the jihadist group on July 1, 2014, just two days after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Islamic State. Dost claimed he had a “vision” of the establishment of the caliphate while in detention at Guantanamo.
After joining the Islamic State, Dost served as a recruiter and propagandist in the Afghan-Pakistan region. Given his skill sets, he may replace Shahidullah Shahid as Khorasan province’s spokesman.