Former Guantanamo detainee, Taliban commander and recent ISIS militant Mullah Abdul Rauf has been declared dead on Monday by Afghanistan authorities. He was killed along with five others by a drone strike.
How exactly he died is under dispute. In the southern province of Helmand, officials are claiming Rauf was killed by a drone strike from one of the many drones the U.S. operates between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Reuters reports. But according to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, Rauf was killed by Afghan Special Forces.
Rauf was reportedly driving a car loaded with ammunition and transporting five other militants when the missile hit.
After being captured in 2001 because of his alleged status as a high-ranking Taliban leader, Rauf remained locked away in Guantanamo until 2007. During his stay, Rauf repeatedly tried to downplay his involvement with the Taliban, insisting that he was nowhere near senior leadership and was only assigned to deliver bread.
“If I go back right now and there is Karzai’s government, all I want to do is go there and work on my land…If they do not mind, I’d love to go there and help them out with the new government and work for them,” Rauf stated during an administrative review board hearing at Guantanamo.
After 2007, he was transported to Afghanistan. The Afghans released him from custody in 2009, and soon after, he joined ISIS and began recruiting for the terror group. (RELATED: Former Guantanamo Jailbird Now A Recruiter For ISIS in Afghanistan)
“At the time, Afghan authorities did not think he was a leading figure within the Taliban, so they let him go,” said Waheed Mujhda, a political analyst, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While Rauf first returned to the Taliban, he soon defected to ISIS because of the latter’s adherence to more radical Salafi theology.
Borhan Osman, an analyst with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said that ISIS named Rauf as deputy governor in the newly defined region called Khorasan, which according to ISIS, includes Central Asia and even parts of India. ISIS is now making significant incursions into Afghanistan and battling the Taliban for territory, replacing the Taliban’s white flags with the black flags of ISIS. Recent firefights between the two groups left 20 dead.
Rauf’s death by drone is a setback for ISIS’ expansionary efforts in Afghanistan and comes at a time when officials are concerned that the group will ruin the region during U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal.