Top ISIS commander in Afghanistan killed in US drone strike

The Islamic State’s top commander in Afghanistan and Pakistan was killed in a United States drone strike on Thursday night along with at least 11 other militants, Afghan officials said on Friday.

According to the officials, Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed in Achin, a district in the volatile eastern Nangarhar province where IS is believed to have a large presence.

After pushing out the Taliban insurgents, Islamic State terrorists gained ground in several districts of Nangarhar province, which shares a long and porous border with lawless areas inside Pakistan.

American military officials confirmed the strike but said that they have not been able to determine that Khan was killed.

A former Taliban commander, Saeed switched allegiance to the Middle East based movement last year, raising the Islamic State’s black banner and declaring a “province of Khorasan”, covering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Khan was said to have been killed in a drone strike in July but the group later released an audio message it said was Khan denying his death.

Just hours earlier the US formally designated the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a terrorist organization on Thursday.

The State Department, in a statement, said the order concerned the Islamic State group s “Khorasan Province” — which US officials refer to as “ISIL-K.”

“The group is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban,” it said.

According to the statement, the group pledged allegiance to the head of the Islamic State s self-proclaimed “caliphate”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in January 2015.

Al-Baghdadi s jihadist group controls the IS heartland in Iraq and Syria, but affiliated movements have sprung up in Libya, Yemen, Sinai and the Afghan borderlands.

“ISIL-K has carried out suicide bombings, small arms attacks and kidnappings in eastern Afghanistan against civilians and Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, and claimed responsibility for May 2015 attacks on civilians in Karachi, Pakistan,” the statement said.

Under US law, once a group is designated as a foreign terrorist organization, suspects can be prosecuted for attempting to provide it with funding or support.