A missile-firing drone killed at least six in Afghanistan on Monday including a veteran militant believed to have defected to ISIL from the Taliban, Afghan officials said.
The senior militant, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdul Rauf, was killed in violence-plagued Helmand, officials in the southern province said. Provincial police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhel said Rauf was traveling in a car when the drone attacked.
The other casualties included his brother-in-law and four Pakistanis, Mullahkhel said. The United States operates drones over Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. While Helmand officials said six people had been killed, the US army said coalition forces used a “precision, guided munition” to kill eight people who were considered a threat.
“We are working to confirm the identities of those killed in the strike,” said a spokesman, Colonel Brian Tribus. He declined to say if the missile was launched by a drone. Rauf has been influential in Afghanistan’s jihadi movement for well over a decade.
Media reports last month said he had begun recruiting for ISIL, part of a push by the movement to gain traction beyond its stronghold in Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, NDS, said Rauf was in charge of ISIL in southwestern Afghanistan.