Asia

Islamic State leader in Afghanistan 'killed by drone'

Propaganda video still showing leader of IS in Khorasan Image copyright BBC Monitoring
Image caption A still from a propaganda video showing the leader of IS in Khorasan, based around Afghanistan and Pakistan

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Islamic State group in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, has been killed in a drone strike, the Afghan intelligence agency says.

It said Saeed died in Achin in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province on Friday night.

But IS has rejected the claims, telling the BBC Hafiz Saeed Khan "is alive".

Some 30 other militants were reportedly killed in the strike, but there has been no independent verification.

Although IS denied Saeed's death, the group did confirm that Shahidullah Shahid, a former member of the Pakistani Taliban who defected to the group, was killed in the drone attack.

He was the most prominent of a group of fighters who appeared in a video in January, apparently filmed in Pakistan, pledging allegiance to the self-styled Islamic State.

Malvi Abdurrahim Muslimdost, a leader of the group in Afghanistan, told the BBC another senior member, Gul Zaman, had also died.

It is the first time IS has confirmed the death of two of its top leaders, Inayatulhaq Yasini from the BBC's Pashto service reports.

He says their loss is a big blow for the group in the region.

The Afghan intelligence agency, the NDS, said Friday's strike was carried out by US-led coalition forces in coordination with intelligence provided by the spy agency.

Nato forces have had a new mandate since the start of the year but can still carry out drone strikes.

An NDS spokesman told the BBC that this attack, combined with a drone strike on Tuesday, would have a significant impact on security for Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has not confirmed the deaths.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nangarhar has seen an upsurge of fighting in recent weeks

This is only the third time that US-led forces have agreed to use drones against IS in Afghanistan, says the BBC's David Loyn in Kabul, showing the seriousness which both the government here and the international coalition are taking the threat of the organisation taking root in Afghanistan.

There had been reports in April that Saeed was killed while planting a bomb.

Nangarhar's Achin district is close to the border with Pakistan. The Islamic State group refers to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as Khorasan state.

Nangarhar has seen an upsurge of fighting in recent weeks, mostly between IS and the Taliban, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

The province is one of the areas where IS militants are most active in Afghanistan.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Shahidullah Shahid was reportedly killed in another drone strike on Tuesday

Tuesday's strike also killed another senior IS commander and scores of militants, intelligence officials say.

Another IS militant commander, Mullah Abdul Rauf, was reported killed in a drone strike in February.

The NDS recently released a video on Facebook showing how its special forces were fighting against the IS threat.

IS first made its presence felt in Pakistan in April, when its regional spokesman claimed its fighters had shot dead three Pakistani soldiers.