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Islamic State's Top Leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan Killed in Airstrike

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the so-called Islamic State’s “Khurasan province,” was the highest ranking of three leaders killed this week in Afghanistan.

by Tessa Stuart
Jul 11 2015, 2:40pm

Photo via Reuters

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Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the so-called Islamic State's "Khurasan province" in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was killed along with 30 other fighters in an airstrike in Jalalabad province on Friday night, Afghan intelligence confirmed to VICE News.

Saeed's death was the latest blow inflicted in a string of attacks carried out by Afghan and US-led coalition forces targeting high-profile Islamic State (IS) operatives in the eastern Jalalabad province, where IS has been recruiting fighters since last year. Saeed, who has been erroneously reported as killed in the past, was the highest ranking of three leaders killed this week.

Related: Islamic State's Number-Two Leader in Afghanistan Dies in Coalition Airstrike

On Monday, a drone strike in the Achin district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province killed Gul Zaman, IS's deputy emir for its Khurasan province. His second in command and five others were also reported killed. (Zaman's predecessor, Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, was killed by a coalition airstrike in February.)

On Tuesday, according to local media in eastern Afghanistan, a US drone strike killed another senior IS leader, Shahidullah Shahid, in south of the city of Jalalabad. Shahid was the former spokesperson for Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban. He was reportedly fired from his position with the TTP after he and five other leaders pledged allegiance to IS. More than two dozen militants were reported killed in Tuesday's attack.

The Pentagon did not provide details about the attacks, but confirmed Thursday that US forces helped carry out "precision strikes" against "individuals threatening US and coalition forces" earlier in the week.

All three strikes were carried out in a region where IS has been actively recruiting disaffected members of both the Afghan Taliban since last year, a campaign that has created tension between the two groups.

Related: The Taliban Tells the Islamic State to Get the Hell Out of Afghanistan

In June, the Afghan Taliban posted a letter to its website warning not to wage its own campaign against Americans troops, as multiple factions would not benefit either of their causes. "Jihad against the Americans and their allies must be conducted under one flag and one leadership," it said.

Tuesday's strike happened to coincide with the first meeting between Afghan and Taliban officials to discuss opening peace negotiations. Officials agreed to meet again in August, after the holy month of Ramadan.

Follow Tessa Stuart on Twitter: @tessastuart

Abdul Aleem contributed reporting from Afghanistan for VICE News

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