Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Gardiz City (BNA) U.S. air raids in eastern Paktia’s Janikhil district killed four commanders of the Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated with the Taliban, as government forces try to retake a district captured by insurgents last week, officials said on Tuesday.
Naqeeb Ahmad Atal, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia province said, ‘120 militants were also killed in the strikes in Janikhil, a strategically located district at a crossroads on a major route into Pakistan.
That toll could not be independently confirmed. Insurgents overran the district center late on Friday, gaining a significant success after stepping up attacks across the country in recent weeks, putting government forces on the back foot. Afghan army spokesman, Fazlkhuda Ibrahimkhil said U.S. drones carried out the air strikes that killed the commanders, hitting fighters gathered in the town overnight.
Colonel Michael Lawhorn, director of public affairs for Afghanistan’s NATO-led mission, confirmed that U.S. forces had carried out attacks in support of Afghan forces on Monday. He declined to provide details while the fighting was going on. “I can confirm that U.S. forces conducted four air strikes,” he said in an emailed statement.
Another Afghan official said several military vehicles captured by the insurgents were also destroyed. One senior Afghan security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said about 1,200 fighters, mostly from the Haqqani network, were involved in last week’s attack on Janikhil.
The involvement of Haqqani fighters, whose traditional stronghold has been in eastern Afghanistan, underscores the group’s key role in Taliban military operations following the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. air strike in May.