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ISIS-K Rears Its Head as Series of Blasts Rock Two Afghanistan Cities in Two Days

Afghan people are pictured outside the Nangarhar Regional Specialization Hospital after explosions in Jalalabad on September 18, 2021. (AFP)

Afghan people are pictured outside the Nangarhar Regional Specialization Hospital after explosions in Jalalabad on September 18, 2021. (AFP)

Local media reports said three people died and 18 were wounded in blasts on Saturday.

At least five reported recent anti-Taliban blasts have rocked Afghanistan in the last two days, in the first such major incidents after the militant group took over the country mid-August.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, the group’s Amaaq News Agency said on its Telegram channel on Sunday. “More than 35 Taliban militia members were killed or wounded, in a series of explosions that took place," the militant group said, referring to blasts on Saturday and Sunday.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban about the death toll.

Blasts Target Taliban Vehicle

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AFP reported that two people were killed when three blasts struck Jalalabad on Saturday, at least one of which targeted a Taliban vehicle, in the country’s first deadly attack since the United States withdrew.

“In one attack a Taliban vehicle patrolling in Jalalabad was targeted," a Taliban official who asked not to be named told AFP. “Women and children were among the injured," he added.

An official from the health department of Nangarhar Province told AFP that three people died and 18 were wounded, while several local media reported the attacks left at least two dead.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, at least four attacks took place in Nangarhar, in Jalalabad, and others in Kabul, leaving at least seven people killed and some 30 wounded. The report, quoting Taliban sources, said the casualties occurred when improvised explosive devices went off on Saturday.

Pictures taken at the site of the blast by AFP showed a green pick-up truck with a white Taliban flag surrounded by debris as armed fighters looked on.

Taliban Pickup Truck Targeted in Blast

On Sunday, local media reported that pickup truck carrying Taliban fighters became the target of a bomb in the Jalalabad city. Witnesses told local media that several wounded Taliban fighters were taken to hospital after the explosion, which one journalist said happened near an interchange for transport to and from the capital, Kabul.

ISIS-K Rears Its Head

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar, which is the heartland of the Islamic State group’s Afghan branch. Although both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they have differed on the minutiae of religion and strategy. That tussle has led to bloody fighting between the two. Al Jazeera quoted a Taliban source as saying that the explosions in Jalalabad and in Kabul “appear to be work of ISIL-K remnants”. They added that the Taliban had opened an investigation into the attacks “and culprits will be brought to justice”.

Forces Against Taliban

ISIS-K: A devastating bomb attack, at and near the Kabul airport, killed scores of people in July. IS claimed responsibility for it. However, since the last American troop left on August 30, the violence-wracked country plagued by fighting, bombs and air strikes, has been free of major incidents.

An affiliate of the ‘Islamic States’, the ISIS-K is known to be the Taliban’s “sworn enemy", and in the chaos that had followed post the insurgent group’s takeover of Aghanistan, many key prisoners are said to be have let go from the country’s prisons.

Established in 2015, the splinter group has been mostly based in eastern Afghanistan, part of an area known as the Khorasan province; referred to in their name ISIS-K.

In 2017, the United States, in a warning to the group, dropped what came to be known as “the mother of all bombs" in the area. But the threat was too big to ‘eliminated’ that way; its fighters are thought to be over 2,200 - a figure rising with the vacuum created by the withdrawal of US troops from the country. Read more

Panjshir Resistance Forces: Panjshir Valley, which was the last remaining hotspot of resistance against the Taliban, was snuffed by the militants earlier this month. The group, which held down its fort for days after the Taliban took control of Kabul, was led by deposed Vice President Amrullah Saleh, and Ahmad Massoud, son of anti-Taliban warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud.

While the National Resistance Force’s (NRF) name has not come up for any of the blasts that have rocked Afghanistan, the leaders, despite being taken over by the Taliban, said the forces remain. A New York Times report mentions how despite the loneliness being witnessed by the valley at the moment, a spokesman maintained that the fight was far from over.

“Our forces are stationed throughout the valley,” the spokesman Ali Maisam Nazary told NYTimes via WhatsApp. “The Soviets also claimed victory when they would enter Panjshir and see no fighting for days or weeks. But the mujahedeen in the ’80s would wait and then attack at the right time.”

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first published:September 19, 2021, 22:08 IST