A spokesman for the US military coalition in Kabul said he could not confirm the reports but officials were investigating. Khan, a former member of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban who swore allegiance to Middle East-based Islamic State, had earlier reported killed last year but the death was never confirmed.

Meanwhile, Islamic State group fighters seized around 2,000 civilians to use as "human shields" on Friday as they fled their stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria, US-backed forces and a monitor said. The abductions came as Russian and Syrian jets pounded rebel positions in second city Aleppo, an AFP correspondent and the Syrian Observatory for Human Right monitor said.

The Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expelled most of the IS fighters from Manbij last week, but dozens continued to put up a tough resistance. On Friday they withdrew from a district in northern Manbij heading for the IS-held town of Jarabalus along the border with Turkey, taking the captives with them.


"While withdrawing from a district of Manbij, Daesh (IS) jihadists abducted around 2,000 civilians from Al-Sirb neighbourhood," said Sherfan Darwish, spokesman for the Manbij Military Council, a key component of the SDF. "They used these civilians as human shields as they withdrew to Jarabulus, thus preventing us from targeting them," he said, adding that women and children were among those taken.

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on sources on the ground to cover the conflict, also reported that IS had abducted around 2,000 civilians as they fled Manbij. It said IS confiscated residents' cars, forced civilians into them and then headed for Jarabulus. The jihadists, who have suffered a string of losses in Syria and Iraq, have often staged mass kidnappings in the two countries when they come under pressure to relinquish territory they hold.

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