KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's intelligence service said the country's special forces killed a high-ranking official with the local Islamic State group affiliate in an operation in eastern Afghanistan.
A statement late Saturday by the National Directorate of Security said the slain militant was Assadullah Orakzai, an intelligence leader for the IS affiliate in Afghanistan. The statement said he was killed near Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. IS has its headquarters in the province.
Orakzai was suspected of being involved in several deadly attacks against both military and civilian targets in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has seen a recent spike in violence, with most attacks claimed by the local IS affiliate.
Still, a United Nations report last week said Afghanistan saw a 13% drop in the number of civilians killed and wounded in violence across the country in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year.
The report credited the drop in casualties in part to the reduction of operations by international forces — which now only act when called upon and in support of the Afghan forces — and also to a decrease in the number of attacks by IS.
The report said the U.N. had recorded 17 attacks by IS that caused civilian casualties during the first six months of 2020, down from 97 attacks in the same period last year. Overall, the U.N. said 1,282 people were killed in violence in the first six months of 2020 in Afghanistan and 2,176 were wounded.
Another U.N. report last month estimated there are around 2,200 IS members in Afghanistan, and said that while its leadership has been depleted, IS still counts among its leaders a Syrian national Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani. The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior IS commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.
“Although in territorial retreat, (the Islamic State) remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul. It also aims to attract Taliban fighters who oppose the agreement with the United States,” the report said, referring to a U.S. peace deal signed with the Taliban in February.
That deal was struck to allow the U.S. to end its 19-year involvement in Afghanistan, and calls on the Taliban to guarantee its territory will not be used by terrorist groups. The deal is also expected to guarantee the Taliban’s all-out participation in the fight against IS.
In March, a lone IS gunman rampaged through a Sikh house of worship in the heart of the Afghan capital, killing 25 worshipers and wounding eight. The gunman held many worshipers hostage for several hours while Afghan special forces, helped by international troops, tried to clear the building. At least one of the dead was a child.
Within hours, IS claimed responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. also blamed IS for a brutal attack in May on a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that killed 24 people, including newborn infants.