- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2017

The head of the Islamic State’s Afghan faction has been killed by U.S. forces in an operation in the eastern part of the country, marking the second time in two years the chieftain of the Afghan cell has been eliminated via American counterterrorism operations.

Abu Sayed, the so-called emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Khorasan Group, or ISIS-K, and several other of the terror group’s members were killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan-led counterterrorism raid in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, the Pentagon confirmed Friday. Kunar and neighboring Nangarhar province have long served as the Afghan group’s de facto headquarters since the Islamic State began its Afghan expansion in 2015.

While the operation targeting the group’s leadership in Kunar took place Tuesday, Defense Department officials only confirmed Mr. Sayed’s death Friday.

Eliminating Mr. Sayed’s and his compatriots from the Afghan battlefield, “will significantly disrupt the terror group’s plans to expand its presence in Afghanistan [and] … send a clear message to ISIS that there is no sanctuary for their fighters in Afghanistan,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said in a statement.

A similar joint raid on ISIS-K redoubts in Nangarhar province last April ended with the death of Hafiz Sayed Khan, who then was the head of the terror group faction. He was killed when American warplanes launched airstrikes in support of the U.S.-Afghan operation. Mr. Khan and Mr. Sayed had directly participated in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces as well as Afghan civilians in both Islamic State-controlled districts.

The operation that ended with Mr. Sayed’s death Tuesday is part of a revamped counterterrorism offensive by Washington and Kabul to drive the Islamic State out of the Southwest Asian nation. Beginning in earnest in May, the opening salvo in the Afghan ISIS fight was the decision to drop the most powerful, non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal on ISIS-K strongholds in eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. forces dropped a GBU-43, known as the “mother of all bombs” on the tunnel complex in Achin district in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, which is home to Islamic State faction in the country. It was the first time the weapon has been used in the country by American forces.

At 22,000 pounds with a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, the bomb is the most powerful conventional weapon in the American armory, second only the Pentagon’s nuclear arsenal.

The unprecedented strike by U.S. forces came nearly three years after Washington ended official combat operations in the country.

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