Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) claimed that the US killed the Islamic State’s spokesman for its Khorasan province in a recent airstrike in eastern Afghanistan. The NDS also claimed that the US killed the deputy emir for Khorasan province earlier this week.
The NDS said that Shahidullah Shahid, whose real name is Shaykh Maqbool, was killed in a strike in Nangarhar province, where the Islamic State has gained ground against the rival Taliban.
“Based on #NDS intelligence, Mawlawi Shahedullah Shahed, a senior ISIS commander was killed in a air strike in Achin district, Nengarhar,” the NDS tweeted on its official account.
The date of the attack that purportedly killed Shahid was not disclosed by the NDS. The US military has not commented on reports of the death of Shahid or operations in Nangarhar. The Islamic State has not commented on reports of Shahid’s death.
The US has launched a series of airstrikes in Nangarhar over the past week that have targeted the Islamic State, according to Afghan press reports. At least 120 Islamic State and Taliban fighters are said to have been killed in strikes in the districts of Achin, Bati Kot, and Dih Bala, although the death toll cannot be confirmed.
Among those reported killed are Gull Zaman, who the NDS claimed was Khorasan Province’s deputy emir, and his lieutenant, Jahanyar. Gull Zaman may be Gul Zamn Fateh, the Islamic State’s commander for the Khyber tribal agency in Pakistan, who was among several mid-level commanders to defect from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan last year. The Islamic State did not confirm or deny reports of Zaman’s death. [See LWJ report, Deputy emir of Islamic State’s Khorasan province reported killed in US drone strike.]
The Islamic State has made inroads into Nangarhar province at the expense of the Taliban. Over the past six months, the group 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 said that the infighting only benefits “the invading crusaders.” [See LWJ report, Taliban chastise Islamic State for dividing jihadist ranks in Afghanistan and beyond.]
It is unclear if Shahid’s death would impact the Islamic State in any significant way. Unlike the media arms for other Islamic State “provinces,” Shahid’s operation has been relatively quiet on the group’s activities in the Khorasan province.
Shahid previously served as the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan before defecting to the Islamic State with five mid-level commanders in October 2014. His defection created some confusion, as he claimed to be serving as the Taliban’s spokesman at the time of his defection. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan released a statement claiming that Shahid was removed as its spokesman long before he defected, and that he was incorrectly using the name “Shahidullah Shahid,” as it is the nom de guerre for the group’s spokesman. [See LWJ report, Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition and Threat Matrix report, TTP denies its spokesman defected to Islamic State.]
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