Afghanistan’s intelligence service has confirmed that the US killed the Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in an airstrike in southern Afghanistan earlier today. Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, who was appointed the deputy governor of Khorasan province in January, was previously a senior leader in the Taliban and was a former detainee at Gunatanamo Bay.
The National Directorate of Security issued a statement that confirmed Khadim’s death, according to Khaama Press. Khadim was traveling in a vehicle in the northern district of Kajaki in Helmand province with his brother and four “Pakistanis” when it was targeted in a US airstrike, Ariana News reported.
The provincial police chief for Helmand, Nabi Jan Mullahkhil, also said that Khadim was killed.
“Six militants including the Taliban key commander in the southern region Mullah Abdul Rauf were killed as aircraft pounded their position in Azan area of Kajaki district at 09:00 a.m. local time today,” Mullahkhil said, according to Xinhua.
The US military has not confirmed that it targeted or killed Khadim in an airstrike. The Islamic State and the Taliban have not commented on reports of the jihadist’s death.
Khadim, who was on of Mullah Omar’s top deputies and military commanders, is said to have severed ties with the Taliban last year after losing an internal power struggle. He is said to have joined the Islamic State earlier this year.
Since his split with the Taliban, Khadim has reportedly clashed with the group in northern Helmand. An unconfirmed report from Afghanistan indicated that he and dozens of his fighters were detained by the Taliban, but his capture was not confirmed.
Abu Muhammad al Adnani, a spokesman for the Islamic State, said that Khadim swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir and self-styled caliph of the Islamic State, in a statement issued on Jan. 26. Khadim was appointed to serve as deputy governor of the Islamic State’s Khorasan province, while Hafez Saeed Khan, a Pakistani Taliban commander from Aurakzai, was named the governor, according to Adnani. The Khorasan is a geographical region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of neighboring countries.
Khadim was captured by US forces in December 2001, and was held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay up until he was transfered to Afghan custody in December 2007. While at Guantanamo, he claimed he was a low level foot soldier in the Taliban when in reality he commanded a Taliban quick reaction force that was deployed to hot spots all over Afghanistan.
He was freed by the Afghan government sometime in 2009, and was quickly appointed to a senior position. In 2010, he served as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Uruzgan province and is also reported to have been a member of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura Council.
If confirmed, Khadim’s death will be a major blow for the Islamic State, which is working to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Khadim has been one of the few Islamic State commanders in Khoransan province who have been active in fighting the US and Afghan government. The Islamic State has recruited disaffected members of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, but has not been very active in the region.
For more information on Khadim, see the following LWJ reports:
Former Gitmo detainee turned Taliban leader threatens Afghan elders
The Gitmo Files: 2 of Afghanistan’s most wanted hid leadership roles while in US custody
Ex-Gitmo detainee leads contingent of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan
Islamic State appoints leaders of ‘Khorasan province,’ issues veiled threat to Afghan Taliban