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US Strike Kills Islamic State’s Provincial Leader in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON � A provincial leader of the Islamic State militant group in Afghanistan has been killed in a U.S. air strike in eastern Kunar province, Afghan and U.S. military officials confirmed Sunday.

U.S. and Afghan Forces have confirmed the death of Kunar provincial Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K) emir, Abdul Rahman, U.S. forces in Afghanistan said in a statement.

Rahman was killed along with three additional senior IS members on Thursday in Kunar's Dara-e-Pech district, the statement added.

Abdul Rahman was a potential candidate to become the IS leader in Afghanistan following Abu Sayed's death in a U.S airstrike last month.

The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K, said General John Nicholson, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He found out just like those before him that there are no safe havens in Afghanistan.

U.S. and Afghan forces have been engaged in joint- counterterrorism operations against IS in eastern Afghanistan. American and Afghan military forces have promised to eliminate IS in Afghanistan in 2017.

Hundreds of IS fighters, including several senior commanders, have been killed in recent months.

Abu Sayed, the group's top leader in Afghanistan, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last month. Sayed was the second IS leader in the past four months, and third in the past year, to have been targeted and killed. Abdul Hasib, his predecessor, was targeted in a U.S.-Afghan security forces raid in Nangarhar's Achin district in April.

We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said following the death of Abdul Rahman.

Based in southern parts of eastern Nangarhar province, IS's Khorasan Province branch (ISIS-K) emerged in early 2015 in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nearby territories.

IS in Afghanistan has primarily been active in several districts of eastern Nangarhar province. Since its emergence, the terror group has targeted villages in several districts in the province, killing and abducting hundreds of people and setting their homes on fire.

IS under increasing pressure

Facing large-scale joint-U.S. and Afghan forces operations in Nangarhar, IS militants are trying to expand to mountainous parts of the adjacent Kunar and Nuristan provinces which share a border with Pakistan.

Police authorities in Nangarhar last week arrested five minors - 10 to 15 years old, who were being transported by IS recruiters from Kunar to a Nangarhar's remote district for training purposes.

Despite the battlefield successes of Afghan and American Special Forces against the Islamic State in Afghanistan, IS has carried out or claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks across the country, sparking fears that the group might be seeking to trigger sectarian conflict in Afghanistan and the greater central Asian region.

IS said its fighters stormed Iraq's embassy in Kabul last month, and the terror group also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a Shi'ite mosque in western Herat province in early August.

Amongst the dead was the father of Fatima Qaderyan, captain of the Afghan all-girls robotics team that made headlines last month after managing to get U.S visas to participate in the International Robot Olympics for High School Students in Washington D.C.

They were initially denied U.S visas, but following President Trump's personal intervention, they were able to travel to the U.S.

Source: Voice of America

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UN: Inquiries Ongoing into Reports of Afghan Civilian Massacre

ISLAMABAD � The United Nations says it is looking into reports insurgents have massacred dozens of people, mostly civilians, in northern Afghanistan in recent days.

Local authorities say the incident took place Saturday after the Taliban attacked and overran Mirza Olang village in the province of Sar-e Pul.

The provincial governor accused the Islamist insurgency of torching houses of civilians and killing more than 40 people, including women and children.

The victims belonged to the minority Shi'ite Hazara community and some of them were reportedly beheaded.

Our inquiries are ongoing, a spokesperson for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told VOA Monday. Liam McDowall added the mission is seeking clarity on "a range of important matters" before issuing public remarks on the incident.

A Taliban spokesman has rejected the official claims as baseless enemy propaganda, saying the group had nothing to do with the incident.

The village is part of the Sayaad district where Islamic State militants are also fighting Afghan security forces.

Some provincial officials say Taliban and IS fighters jointly attacked the villagers.

The Taliban rejected the allegations, saying it considers IS an enemy force and asserted the militants are not present in the Afghan province.

Afghan officials in Kabul say that reinforcements are being dispatched to the conflict zone to evict the Taliban from the area.

Hostilities have intensified across Afghanistan this year, with civilians bearing the brunt of the conflict, according to UNAMA.

The agency documented around 1,700 deaths of Afghan civilians in conflict-related incidents and injuries to nearly 3,600, in the first half of 2017.

US strategy

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is working on a new strategy for Afghanistan to try to help Afghan security forces reverse insurgent gains and improve national security.

The strategy, however is facing delays in the wake of reported divisions over how to conduct and win the longest war in U.S. history.

Last week, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mike Pompeo, made an unannounced visit to Kabul for more talks with President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan officials on bilateral cooperation.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah informed a routine ministerial council meeting about the CIA chief's visit but gave no further details.

The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, announced Monday that Alice Wells, the acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, concluded a two-day visit to Kabul.

She met with Ghani, Abdullah and other top government officials to discuss issues of mutual importance and bilateral cooperation, the statement said.

Ambassador Wells underscored U.S. support for Afghanistan's economic and political modernization, stability, and efforts to promote national reconciliation, it added.

Source: Voice of America

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