“ASSF and U.S. counter-terrorism forces killed Hikmatullah and they will kill any successors,” Gen. Nicholson said.
According to the report, a U.S. airstrike killed Qari Hikmatullah and his bodyguard in Bal Chiragh district, Faryab province, Afghanistan, Apr. 5, 2018. At the time of his death, Hikmatullah was the senior ISIS-K commander and the main facilitator of ISIS-K fighters into northern Afghanistan.
ISIS-K in Jowzjan province is the main conduit for external support and foreign fighters from Central Asian states into Afghanistan. Hikmatullah was the key leader for those operations.
Hikmatullah, a native Uzbekistani, had a history of divided loyalties; first as an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader, followed by allegiance to the Taliban, and ultimately ISIS-K.
ISIS-K reportedly named Mawlavi Habibul Rahman, another native Uzbekistani, as Hikmatullah’s successor. Rahman’s succession to a leadership role raises concerns across ISIS followers in remote, isolated areas of Jowzjan. Rahman has had intermittent ties to both the Taliban and GIRoA, highlighting the difficulty ISIS-K is having replacing leaders.