The United States on Monday announced two rewards of up to $10 million each for information leading to the identification or location of ISIS-K leader Sanaullah Ghafari, and for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those responsible for last year’s deadly attack at Kabul international airport.
ISIS-K, is the regional ISIS affiliate that first appeared in 2014 and is named after an old term for the Khorasan region. It has previously fought both the Western-backed government that fell in August and the Taliban.
Ghafari was in June 2020 appointed to lead the ISIS-K in Afghanistan by leaders in the extremist group.
He was designated by the U.S. State Department as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in November, and is responsible for approving all ISIS-K operations throughout Afghanistan and arranging funding to conduct operations.
The second reward on offer is for information linked to the attack on Kabul’s international airport on Aug. 26 last year, as evacuation efforts were underway following the withdrawal of U.S. troops by President Joe Biden as the Taliban terrorist group seized control of the city.
The U.S. military said that a single ISIS bomber killed 13 U.S. troops and at least 170 Afghans in the attack.
“Terrorists launched a suicide bombing against the airport as the United States and other governments conducted a large-scale evacuation of their citizens and vulnerable Afghans from the country,” the State Department said Monday. “ISIS-K claimed responsibility for that attack.”
The bombing left President Joe Biden’s administration struggling to answer accusations that the State Department could have evacuated Americans sooner instead of putting U.S. troops at risk.
U.S. officials said in November they believed ISIS-K could develop the ability to strike outside of Afghanistan within six to 12 months.
“These rewards are being offered at an important moment in our fight against ISIS,” Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Gentry Smith said, highlighting the recent death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS since 2019, during a U.S. counterterrorism operation in Syria.
He was the target of an operation in northwest Syria, and as U.S. special operations forces under the control of U.S. Central Command approached the building in Atmeh where the terrorist leader was, he committed suicide, U.S. officials said.
“That operation and these new reward offers are a clear demonstration of our determination to identify and find and defeat ISIS leaders in Syria, Afghanistan, and anywhere else in the world where they may be found,” Smith added.
Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.