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Afghanistan says US strike kills local Islamic State leader

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan intelligence officials said Saturday that a U.S. airstrike killed the top leader of a local Islamic State affiliate and more than 30 other militants near the country’s rugged eastern border with Pakistan. U.S. officials confirmed they carried out the strike, but declined to say whether they killed the leader.

The strike in Nangarhar province killed Islamic State affiliate leader Hafeez Sayeed and others on Friday, said Abdul Hassib Sediqi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. Sediqi said Afghan intelligence officials provided information to U.S. forces, who carried out the strike.

NATO officials declined to immediately comment on the claim, saying they would issue a statement later Saturday. U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, confirmed Americans carried out an airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin District, but declined to comment further.

The Afghan government has warned the Islamic State group, rooted in Iraq and Syria, is making inroads into Afghanistan and is active in at least three provinces. The Taliban, at war with the government for nearly 14 years, have warned the Islamic State group to stay out. Both groups want Islamic rule but the Taliban do not recognize the Islamic State group’s self-declared “caliphate.”

On Tuesday, Afghan officials said another U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar province killed the second-highest official in the local Islamic State affiliate, Gul Zaman, and six others, including a former Pakistani Taliban spokesman.

Meanwhile Saturday, a bomb exploded near a religious school in Kandahar, killing three children and wounding six, said Samim Khpolwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Kandahar province.

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Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.

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