By Hamid Shalizi
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan forces killed an important Islamic State (IS) commander in an air strike, one year after he defected from the Taliban and established a new IS foothold in the country, security officials said.
Qari Hekmat was killed in a drone strike on Thursday afternoon in the Darz Aab district of Afghanistan's northern Jawzjan province, said Hanif Rezaee, spokesman for the Afghan National Army Air Corps.
He said Mawlavi Habib Ur Rahman has been appointed as his IS successor in the north of the country.
The militant group, also known as Daesh, established a new foothold in the province last year when Hekmat defected from the Taliban, attracting the attention of U.S. forces.
IS claimed responsibility for suicide bombs last month near Shi'ite mosques in Herat and Kabul. Both the Western-backed government in Kabul and the main Islamist militant group, the Taliban, fight Islamic State.
The militant group first appeared in Afghanistan three years ago. As well as its main stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, its fighters have been active in northern Afghanistan.
While sectarian violence in mainly Sunni Muslim Afghanistan was previously rare, a series of attacks over recent years, many claimed by IS, have killed hundreds of Shi'ites.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Rod Nickel in Kabul; Editing by Michael Perry)