KABUL -- The head of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Afghanistan -- described as the mastermind behind high-profile attacks in Kabul -- has been killed, Afghan officials and coalition forces confirmed Monday (May 8th).
Abdul Hasib, leader of ISIS Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), was killed in April in a targeted raid by special forces in Nangarhar Province, the Afghan Presidential Palace said in a statement.
Hasib was the second ISIS-K leader killed by Afghan and US forces in less than nine months, officials said. His death came days after the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS hideouts in the same area.
Hasib blamed for hospital massacre
Authorities blame Hasib for brutal assaults in Kabul, including the Sardar Daud Khan Hospital attack, in which assailants stabbed bedridden patients and threw grenades into crowded wards, killing at least 50 people.
"He had ordered the attack" on the hospital, the presidential statement said, adding that Kabul will fight ISIS and other extremist groups "until they are annihilated".
ISIS's many other atrocities include a suicide bombing that killed more than 30 Shia Muslims at a Kabul mosque last November.
Gen. John Nicholson, NATO commander in Afghanistan, confirmed Hasib's death and warned that "any ISIS member that comes to Afghanistan will meet the same fate".
"This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters," he said.
The first, Hafiz Saeed, was killed in a US air strike in Nangarhar last July.
"Dozens of ISIS fighters have been killed in eastern Afghanistan," said Kabul-based analyst Ahmad Saeedi, warning that Hasib would be quickly replaced.
Hundreds of ISIS-K members killed
NATO spokesman Captain Bill Salvin later elaborated on the raid, saying there were women and children in the compound where Hasib was killed.
"The assault force was able to safely separate the women and children from the combatants and there were no civilian casualties," he told AFP.
"More than 500" ISIS militants have been killed since the launch of Operation Hamza on March 31, he said, without saying how many remain.
"The number of ISIS casualties is rising at an unprecedented pace," Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told Salaam Times April 28.
"The absolute majority of Afghans who had pledged allegiance to ISIS have been killed," Waziri said, adding, "The Khorasan branch of ISIS in Afghanistan is on the verge of eradication."
First emerging in Afghanistan in 2015, ISIS-K overran large parts of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, near the Pakistani border.
However, successive military operations, battlefield losses and defections have reduced the local ISIS presence from a peak of 3,000 to a maximum of 800, according to coalition forces.