US offers $10m reward for information on ISKP leader

ISKP, an Afghanistan affiliate of ISIL (ISIS), had claimed responsibility for deadly attack on Kabul airport last year.

Aerial image from a video released by the Department of Defense shows US Marines around the scene at Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Afghanistan, after a suicide bomber detonated an explosion.
The bombing at the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021 killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US military personnel [File: US Department of Defense via AP]

The United States is offering up to $10m for information leading to the location or identification of Sanaullah Ghafari, the leader of the Afghanistan affiliate of ISIL (ISIS).

The reward offered by the US State Department on Monday also covers any information that could lead to the arrest of individuals responsible for last year’s deadly bombing at Kabul airport, which was claimed by the ISIL group in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).

The August 2021 attack in the Afghan capital, which killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US service personnel, came amid the US’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Ghafari – also known as Shahab al-Muhajir – was appointed head of ISKP in June 2020, according to the US State Department, and was responsible for approving all ISKP operations throughout Afghanistan and for raising funds for the group.

The results of a US military investigation into the August 26 attack at the Kabul airport, released on February 4, found that it was likely conducted by one person who detonated a single explosive device, loaded with ball bearings, in a packed crowd.

Days after the bombing, the US carried out a drone attack that the Pentagon initially said targeted suspected ISKP fighters.

But media outlets quickly reported that 10 Afghan civilians, including several children, had been killed. US officials later apologised for the bombing, though no members of the US military have been punished.

Little is known about Ghafari, but he is rumoured to have been an al-Qaeda commander or a former member of the Haqqani network, one of the most powerful and feared factions in the Taliban.

Ghafari was blacklisted by the US in November as a “specially designated global terrorist”.

Two other members of the group – spokesperson Sultan Aziz Azam, also known as Sultan Aziz, and senior leader Maulawi Rajab Salahudin – were also blacklisted.

“We are committed to using all of our counterterrorism tools to counter ISIS-K and ensure that Afghanistan cannot again become a platform for international terrorism,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time.

“These designations expose and isolate terrorists, preventing them from exploiting the US financial system and assisting with relevant law enforcement activities.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies