Former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid has been killed in a US drone strike in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, the country’s intelligence agency confirmed on Thursday.
One of the most-recognisable faces in the ranks of the banned TTP, Shahid had declared allegiance to the Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, with several top leaders last year. He was appointed the spokesman for Da’ish Khorasan region, which includes Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A series of US drone strikes have killed dozens of Da’ish militants in the Nangarhar province, according to Afghan officials.
“It was confirmed today (Thursday) that a senior leader of the Da’ish group for Khorasan region, Maulvi Shahidullah Shahid, has been killed in an air strike,” stated the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan spy agency. The NDS claim has not been corroborated by the IS.
Shahid’s killing is a serious setback for Da’ish, as he was one of the few senior leaders in the group. An NDS statement posted on the internet said he was previously known as Sheikh Maqbool.
“Shahid wanted to plan a major war in the region and to present himself as a top leader of the terrorist group,” the NDS disclosed.
Shahid and five senior Taliban leaders, including the then TTP Orakzai chief Hafiz Saeed Khan, had quit the TTP to join Da’ish.
The former TTP spokesman is the second top Da’ish regional leader to be killed in a US drone strike this year.
Da’ish deputy chief for Khorasan, Abdul Rauf Khadim, and 10 supporters were killed in southern Afghanistan this February.
NDS spokesman Haseeb Sediqi said at least 25 insurgents were reportedly killed in drone strikes in Nangarhar on Wednesday night.
The strikes were carried out on a gathering of the insurgents in Dih Bala district, he told a news conference.
This comes two days after around 60 insurgents, including the Da’ish group’s second-in-command in Afghanistan, Gul Zaman, and his deputy Jahanyar were reportedly killed as a result of drone strikes in the province, according to the Afghan media.
The strikes were carried out on two separate gatherings of the Taliban insurgents in Momand valley in Achin district, said the spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.
Da’ish has established bases in Nangarhar where its supporters have been involved in clashes with the Afghan Taliban in the recent weeks.
A senior Taliban leader, Maulvi Anwarul Haq Mujahid said that more than 80 fighters of the Taliban and Da’ish had been killed in Nangarhar since May 10.
Several Afghan Taliban leaders, including Taliban shadow governor Gul Seerat, and his deputy Asmatullah, have joined the IS.
Shahid’s killing in Afghanistan has confirmed yet again that most of the Pakistani militants, who have fled the military operations, have crossed the border into Afghanistan and now operate from there.
Pakistan’s military had appealed to the NATO and Afghan leaders to strengthen monitoring of the border to frustrate the attempts of the fleeing militants crossing the border when a major offensive was launched in North Waziristan last June.
The Afghan government and the US had also been complaining about the militants using North Waziristan for launching cross-border attacks.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.