Abu Sayed was the emir of ISIS’s province in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Wilayat Khorasan. He died in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan on July 11, 2017.Ryan Browne, “US kills leader of ISIS in Afghanistan,” CNN, July 14, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/14/politics/us-kills-isis-leader-afghanistan/index.html.
Militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014. ISIS accepted the pledge in January 2015, officially forming Wilayat Khorasan, and appointed former Pakistani Taliban commander Hafiz Saeed Khan as leader.“Islamic State moves in on al-Qaeda turf,” BBC News, June 25, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-31064300. There were approximately 1,300 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan as of September 2016, according to General John Nicholson, the highest ranking U.S. military commander in the country. Nicholson said on September 23, 2016, that ISIS leaders in Syria provide the Afghanistan fighters with money, guidance, and communications support. According to Nicholson, ISIS’s fighters are largely former members of the Pakistani Taliban and primarily based in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar region.“U.S. General Says Taliban Controls 10 Percent Of Afghanistan,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, September 23, 2016, https://www.rferl.org/a/28009576.html.
A U.S. airstrike killed Abu Sayed on July 11, 2017, at ISIS-Khorasan’s headquarters in Kunar province, Afghanistan. The Pentagon confirmed his death three days later.“Statement by Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White on death of ISIS-K leader in Afghanistan,” U.S. Department of Defense, July 14, 2017, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1248198/statement-by-chief-pentagon-spokesperson-dana-w-white-on-death-of-isis-k-leader/. Abu Sayed was the third ISIS-Khorasan leader to be killed within a year. Previous ISIS leader Abdul Hasib was killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Afghanistan’s Nanghahar province on April 27, 2017. His predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed in a July 2016 U.S. drone strike.“Head of Islamic State in Afghanistan killed: Pentagon,” Reuters, July 14, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-islamic-state-idUSKBN19Z26G?il=0.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James reportedly called Abu Sayed’s death “a victory on our side in terms of setting them back, it’s the right direction.”Ryan Browne, “US kills leader of ISIS in Afghanistan,” CNN, July 14, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/14/politics/us-kills-isis-leader-afghanistan/index.html.