Former Taliban commander Abdul Rauf, who recently pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), was killed by a drone strike in Afghanistan.
Rauf spent six years in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba after he was captured by American forces in 2001.
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency confirmed Rauf’s death, acknowledging ISIS’ presence in the country for the first time.
“Today at 1:28 p.m. [3.58 a.m. ET] in a successful operation, Abdul Rauf also known as ‘Khadim’ was killed along with his five companions in Sadat village of Kajaki district of Helmand province,” the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Afghanistan said in a written statement, NBC News reports. “He was the commander of [ISIS] in southern Afghanistan.”
Afghan sources, including a senior Afghan army commander and a provincial governor, told The Associated Press last month that the former Guantanamo detainee was recruiting fighters for ISIS in Helmand province, which is located in southern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.
Rauf was named deputy commander 0f ISIS in Khorasan, an ancient name for a region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of the surrounding countries.
NATO did not confirm Rauf’s death, but it did report the airstrike.
The alliance reported that it had carried out “a precision coalition airstrike in Helmand… resulting in the death of eight individuals threatening the force.”
Nabi Jan Mullahkhel, the police chief in Helmand, told Reuters that the other fatalities included the jihadi commander’s brother-in-law and four Pakistani nationals.
Local officials told NBC News that Rauf was killed by NATO warplanes.
“Rauf and his men were… killed in a coalition airstrike this morning as they were traveling in Toyota Corolla vehicle in Kajaki district [in Helmand province],” said Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, the deputy governor of Helmand province, NBC News reports. “The operation took place in close coordination with Afghan security forces.”
Mullah Abduraziq Akhund, a local government administrator of the Kajaki district, also confirmed Rauf’s death.
ISIS has reportedly established a presence in the Khorasan region.
“Analysts are divided over whether those flying black flags in Afghanistan are opportunists or are directed by the [ISIS] leadership in Syria and Iraq,” reports BBC.
“There have been increasing reports of people supporting [ISIS] from across the country,” it adds. “Afghan government spokesmen continue to insist that they are disaffected Taliban, and not a significant new development.”
ISIS flying black flags in Khorasan presents an “end of the world” scenario for some Muslims, notes BBC.
“In October, militants aligned with ISIS launched a brutal offensive in Afghanistan alongside Taliban fighters that left more than 100 people dead,” reports NBC News. “Insurgents carrying the black flag of ISIS captured several villages in Ghazni province. At least 60 homes were set ablaze, officials said.”
BBC reports that ISIS has also expanded into Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
Breitbart News reported that the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and other U.S. officials are concerned about ISIS’ expansion outside of Iraq and Syria where the group controls large areas.
A U.S.-led coalition has been bombarding ISIS targets with airstrikes for months now.