The Mirror reports that just days after an IS bombing in Kabul, in which 80 people were killed, key ISIS leader and founder member of the terrorist group's Afghanistan-Pakistan branch, Saad Emerati, has been killed in a firefight in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, according to the Afghan army.
A spokesman for Nangarhar's governor, Attahullah Khogyani, said that Emarati and approximately 120 suspected radicals were killed in an operation aimed at IS training camps. The operation took place in the mountainous district of Kot, a main stronghold of the Takfiri group. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said, "They have been taught a lesson for their crimes. We will wipe out IS (Daesh) from Nangarhar."
Saad Emarati was an ex-Taliban commander who joined ISIS after the Taliban founder, Mullah Omar's death. He was one of the first of the radical commanders in the area to pledge allegiance to IS after being suspended by the Afghan Taliban leadership for "unauthorized activities" in the Logar province in 2013. He then became part of the Pakistani Taliban, and in 2015, released a video along with two other Afghan and nine ex Pakistani Taliban commanders, in which they pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Shortly after the release of the video, IS established its Khorasan branch, responsible for operations in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, Iran and central Asia, based in the eastern Nangarthar province of Afghanistan, with Emarati being among its most important commanders. Known for his brutality, he led a number of attacks against the Afghan Taliban and government forces in an effort to enforce the group's stronghold in the area.
War was declared between the Taliban and IS in January, 2015, with the groups clashing regularly in Afghanistan, as ISIS gained support and became the Taliban's biggest threat among a number of militant groups in the area. IS is also actively recruiting Taliban fighters.
The operation is seen as part of an attempt by the Afghan government to increase the intensity in its battle against ISIS following the attack that killed 80 people on Sunday in Kabul. Intelligence sources in Afghanistan have indicated that the suicide bombers were sent by the Khorasan branch to carry out the attack. ISIS said the bombing targeted members of the Shia minority for their support for President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime whose forces have made major advances against them. In recent months the Syrian forces have managed to expel IS forces from some key areas in the east and north-east of the country.
Experts believe the death of Emarati will result in a crisis in IS and will be a significant stumbling block to its eastern Afghanistan operation. "We think that Daesh [ISIS] is under pressure. Their terrain gets restricted, you see them trying to conduct more external operations and attacks," said US military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland.
Afghan officials have released images of the raid in Kot, showing ISIS posts that have been seized. The Afghan Interior Ministry has said that over the last two months, 654 ISIS and Taliban rebels have been killed. This figure includes a number of senior commanders.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have sworn to take a joint stand against the terrorists, while ISIS has threatened more attacks on the Hazara minority of Afghanistan.
[Photo by Najim Rahim/AP Images]