WASHINGTON (AP) — The top recruiter for the Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in an American drone strike on Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday, marking the first targeted attack on a leader of the IS extremists in that country.
Abdul Rauf and seven others were killed when the strike hit their car, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. Officials have expressed concerns about the Islamic State group seeking recruits in Afghanistan, as U.S. forces withdraw and Afghan forces take control of the country's security.
Kirby said Rauf and his associates were targeted because they were planning attacks, but he said the strength of the Islamic State in Afghanistan is "nascent, and aspirational at best."
Although the U.S. is no longer doing combat operations in Afghanistan, troops there — including special operations forces — are still conducting counterterrorism missions. There are about 10,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now.
The deputy governor of the southern Helmand province had said earlier this week that Rauf was killed, but U.S. officials had awaited further evidence.
During the Taliban's rule, which ended in late 2001, Rauf was a corps commander in the western province of Herat and in Kabul. Rauf spent years in the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba before being released in Afghanistan in 2007. He was jailed in Afghanistan and released in 2009.