Afghan commandos prepare to launch mortar shells on an Islamic State (IS) militant stronghold in Achin district of Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan on April 14, 2017. The US military's largest non-nuclear bomb killed dozens of Islamic State militants as it smashed their mountain hideouts, Afghan officials said, ruling out any civilian casualties despite the weapon's destructive power. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb -- dubbed the "Mother Of All Bombs" -- was unleashed in combat for the first time, hitting IS positions in eastern Nangarhar province on April 13. / AFP PHOTO / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA (Photo credit should read NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)

The head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abdul Hasib, has been killed in an operation led by Afghan special forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday.

Hasib, appointed last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a U.S. drone strike, is believed to have ordered a series of high profile attacks including one in March on the main military hospital in Kabul by a group of militants disguised as doctors, a statement said.

Last month, a Pentagon spokesman said Hasib had probably been killed during a raid by U.S. and Afghan special forces in Nangarhar during which two U.S. army Rangers were killed, but there was no confirmation.

The local affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has been active since 2015, fighting both the Taliban as well as Afghan and U.S. forces.

It is believed to maintain links with the main Islamic State movement in Iraq and Syria but has considerable operational independence.

U.S. and Afghan special forces, backed by drone strikes and other air support, have waged a series of operations against IS-K this year, killing dozens of their fighters, mainly in Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.

Defeating the group remains one of the top U.S. priorities in Afghanistan and last month the United States dropped its largest non-nuclear device on a network of caves and tunnels used by ISIS in Nangarhar, killing 94 fighters, including four commanders.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Richard Lough and Susan Fenton)

Source: Reuters

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