Senior Afghan militant with suspected ISIS links ‘killed in drone attack’

Mullah Abdul Rauf had been influential in Afghanistan’s Islamist militant movement for well over a decade

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A missile-firing drone killed six people in Afghanistan on Monday including a veteran militant believed to have defected to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the Taliban, Afghan officials said.

The senior militant, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdul Rauf, was killed in the violence-plagued southern province of Helmand, officials there said.

Police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhel said Rauf was travelling in a car when the drone attacked. The other casualties included his brother-in-law and four Pakistanis, Mullahkhel said.

He did not give more details of the attack. The United States operates drones over Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rauf had been influential in Afghanistan’s Islamist militant movement for well over a decade.

Media reports last month said he had begun recruiting for ISIS, part of a push by the movement to gain traction beyond its stronghold in Iraq and Syria.

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said in a statement Rauf was in charge of ISIS in southwestern Afghanistan and he was killed just after mid-day in “a successful military operation.”

Helmand’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, said Rauf’s membership of ISIS could not be confirmed but his associates were dressed in black outfits often worn by ISIS members.

“It is too early to confirm that he was Daish but his people were wearing the same clothes and mask,” Rasulyar said, referring to ISIS.

A U.S. military report released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in 2011 said that Rauf had tried to pass himself off as a low level Taliban worker who “delivered bread,” but that interrogators suspected he was more senior.

Also in 2011, Newsweek magazine reported that Rauf had once led an elite fighting force close to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and that after his return to Afghanistan in 2007 he had become the Taliban’s shadow governor in Uruzgan province.

Guantanamo interrogators said Rauf had revealed detailed knowledge of Afghanistan’s opium trade.