Head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abdul Hasib, was killed in an operation conducted on April 27 , jointly by Afghan and U.S. Special Forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, U.S. and Afghan officials said on Sunday.
The militant leader, Abdul Hasib, had overseen a number of bloody attacks that directly challenged the authority of President Ashraf Ghani, including a massacre at the main Afghan Army hospital in Kabul that killed at least 50 people.
He was appointed last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a U.S. drone strike.
The United States military command in Afghanistan had said that an operation on April 27 targeted Mr. Hasib. Two American Army Rangers, Sgt. Joshua Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, were killed in the operation, perhaps by so-called friendly fire, the Pentagon has said.
Afghan and American forces often go on joint missions. The one that killed Mr. Hasib included about 50 United States Army Rangers and a similar number of Afghan special security forces, the Pentagon has said. A firefight broke out during the raid, which lasted over three hours, and American F-16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters carried out airstrikes to protect the troops.
The Islamic State in the Khorasan, which uses an ancient name for the region that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, expanded rapidly in the eastern part of Afghanistan, where government forces and an intense air campaign by the United States military have tried to rout the militants. They have been reduced to about 700 fighters, down from as many as 3,000, American officials said.
Last month, the United States dropped its largest conventional bomb, the 22,000-pound MOAB, on one of the group’s redoubts in Nangarhar, killing as many as 96 fighters, Afghan officials said.
Commanders decided on a ground assault, instead of another airstrike, to kill or capture Mr. Hasib because women and children were living in his compound, said an American military official who asked not to be identified when providing operational details, adding that none of them had been hurt in the raid.
Even as the militants’ numbers were reduced near the eastern border with Pakistan, they claimed daring attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The group’s deadliest attack was a suicide bombing at a peaceful demonstration in the city last July, which killed at least 80 people.
Little is known about Mr. Hasib, a former Afghan Taliban commander who switched his loyalty to the Islamic State and took over the Afghanistan affiliate when Mr. Khan was killed. But the Afghan president’s office said he was behind the March hospital attack.