Afghan defense ministry says broadcast was demoralizing to troops and news of its destruction is ‘welcome.’
Airstrikes have destroyed a radio station run by Islamic State jihadists in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, two months after the group took to the airwaves in a sign of their growing reach.
The Pashto-language Voice of the Caliphate beamed I.S. propaganda in irregular nightly broadcasts from an undisclosed location in Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan. The Afghan defense ministry said the program was broadcast from a moving vehicle and airstrikes on Monday destroyed the transmission equipment hidden in the basement of a house in volatile Achin district.
“The radio program has not been heard since Tuesday,” said Achin district governor Haji Ghalib. “It was very demoralizing for our troops and it is welcome news that it has been destroyed.”
The group, which controls territory across Syria and Iraq, has made alarming inroads in Nangarhar, as the country grapples with a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
In recent months Afghan forces backed by U.S. drones launched a scorched earth offensive to beat back I.S. in Nangarhar, where the group’s rein of terror has displaced thousands of people.
The defense ministry said Monday’s strikes were carried out by the Afghan air force with the support of NATO troops. But some media reports said U.S. forces conducted the strikes.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan said two American “counter-terrorism strikes” were carried out late Monday in Achin, without elaborating.
Mumtaz Sadat, a 28-year-old former Afghan soldier in Nangarhar, said the radio, which aired bombastic anti-government propaganda, sowed fear among local residents. “It was psychological warfare,” he said.
President Ashraf Ghani recently vowed to “bury” the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, while voicing alarm over their growing reach. The jihadists have managed to attract disaffected Taliban fighters increasingly lured by the group’s signature brutality.
The White House last month gave the U.S. military legal authority to target the group’s fighters in Afghanistan, the first such authorization for military action against the group outside Iraq and Syria
The U.S. State Department has formally designated the group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which calls itself “Khorasan Province”—as a terrorist organization. The name Khorasan refers to a historic region, which includes parts of modern-day Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and neighboring countries.