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30 militants killed in US drone strike in Afghanistan

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Kabul: About 30 Islamic State (IS) affiliated militants, including a senior IS leader, were killed following a US-led drone strike in eastern Afghanistan overnight Friday, said the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country’s intelligence agency on Saturday.

“Based on NDS intelligence, Hafez Sayeed, the leader of Daesh (IS) in so-called Khurassan state was killed in an air strike in Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province last night,” the NDS said in a statement, Xinhua reported.

Earlier this year, the IS group, mostly active in Iraq and Syria, announced that it has established a province in Khurassan, a historic name for a region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of other countries in the region.

Earlier this month, Sheikh Maqbul, known as Shahidullah Shaid and the IS no. 2 leader named Gul Zaman were killed in a similar attack in the same province, according to NDS.

The NDS has set up a special operation team to combat IS affiliate militants.

The latest targeted killing of the IS leaders has been a big blow for the IS group in Afghanistan. The NDS personnel will never allow any international terrorist group, including IS, to set up safe havens in Afghanistan, the statement said.

In an unrelated incident, a local leader and pro-government figure named Shir Arab was killed following a drive-by shooting attack in Mazar-i-Sharif city, capital of northern Balkh province on Saturday evening, Shir Jan Durranni, a provincial police spokesman, said.

 

(IANS)

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Thousands Displaced as SDF Targeting Civilians Advances on Last IS Territory in Syria

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

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Syria
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.

“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”

Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.

Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.

Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.

“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview. VOA

Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.

He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.

Also Read: Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.

“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.

According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)