Posts Tagged ‘Nangarhar’

Afghanistan: Govt Says Head of Islamic State killed in Nangarhar province

August 26, 2018

The head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abu Saad Erhabi, was killed in a strike on the group’s hideouts in Nangarhar province on Saturday night, authorities said on Sunday.

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August 2, 2018 — More than 250 Islamic State fighters turned themselves in to the Afghan government to avoid imminent capture by Taliban insurgents. About 100 were younger than 18, Afghan officials said.  Credit Najim Rahim/The New York Times

Ten other members of the militant group were also killed in a joint ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces, the National Directorate of Security in Kabul said in a statement.

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A large amount of heavy and light weapons and ammunition were destroyed during raids on two Islamic State hideouts.

The jihadist group’s Amaq’s news agency carried no comment on the issue, and there was no immediate reaction from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that trains and advises Afghan forces.

The provincial governor of Nangarhar said Erhabi was the fourth Islamic State leader in Afghanistan to be killed since July 2017.

The group has developed a stronghold in Nangarhar, on Afghanistan’s porous eastern border with Pakistan, and become one of the country’s most dangerous militant groups.

The local affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has been active since 2015, fighting the Taliban as well as Afghan and U.S. forces.

Former ISIS-K leader Abu Sayed was killed in a strike in the eastern province of Nangarhar and Sayed’s predecessors were killed joint U.S. and Afghan operations.

The exact number of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan is difficult to calculate because they frequently switch allegiances, but the U.S. military estimates that there are about 2,000.

More than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces this month in the northwestern province of Jawzjan, where the group is fighting for control of smuggling routes into neighboring Turkmenistan.

Reporting by Ahmad Sultan, Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Hamid Shalizi, editing by John Stonestreet

Reutera

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Afghanistan: At least 15 people were killed in Jalaladad attack

July 31, 2018

At least 15 people were killed on Tuesday in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad when gunmen stormed a government building, trapping dozens inside after a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance gate, officials and witnesses said.

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Smoke rises from a building after a deadly attack including a suspected suicide car bombing and gunbattles, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 31, 2018. An Afghan provincial official said a coordinated attack was underway by the Taliban in the city of Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province. (AP Photo) AP

The attack underlines the country’s dire security situation after 17 years of war, with Islamic State increasingly claiming attacks on civilian targets even as pressure builds for peace talks between the Western-backed government and the Taliban.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though the Taliban issued a statement denying involvement.

After several hours during which intermittent gunfire and explosions could be heard, provincial government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said the incident appeared to be over with two gunmen killed and much of the building destroyed.

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An Afghan policeman inspects the site of an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

He said at least 15 people had been killed and 15 wounded although the total may rise as rescue workers search the site. Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the local provincial council, said eight had been killed and as many as 30 wounded.

One witness, a passerby named Obaidullah, said the attack began when a black car with three occupants pulled up at the entrance to a building used by the department of refugee affairs and a gunman emerged, firing around him.

One attacker blew himself up at the gate and two gunmen entered the building, in an area close to shops and government offices, he added.

Minutes later, the car blew up, wounding people in the street, Obaidullah said.

“We saw several people wounded and helped to carry them away,” he added.

As security forces cordoned off the area, gunshots and what appeared to be hand grenade explosions could be heard as a cloud of black smoke drifted into the sky.

Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the local provincial council, said about 40 people appeared to have been caught inside the building, which caught fire early in the attack.

As the attack concluded, it was not immediately clear what had happened to them. Islamic State has claimed a number of recent attacks in the city.

Khogyani said the attack happened during a meeting with NGOs working on refugee-related issues. The head of the department and several other people were taken to safety, he said.

Although it is unclear whether there is any direct connection, Islamic State attacks have picked up as hopes for peace talks between the government and the Taliban have grown in the wake of last month’s three-day ceasefire.

The attacks have been concentrated in Jalalabad, the main city of Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan where Islamic State fighters first appeared toward the end of 2014.

The casualties add to a mounting toll in Afghanistan. In the western province of Farah, 11 people were killed when their bus was hit by a roadside bomb, officials said.

Also on Tuesday, unknown attackers seized 22 people from vehicles on a highway linking Kabul and Gardez, a key city in the eastern province of Paktia.

Additional reporting by Rafiq Shirzad; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Reuters

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Gunmen storm Afghan govt building in Jalalabad

July 31, 2018

Gunmen stormed a government building after multiple explosions in a continuing attack in Jalalabad on Tuesday, the latest in a series in the eastern Afghan city.

At least two blasts were heard before the attackers entered the compound of the refugees and repatriations department, said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province.

Several foreign organizations are also in the vicinity.

Before the attack began representatives of foreign donors and agencies were meeting department employees inside the building, Khogyani said.

Zemarai couldn’t confirm any casualties but says a heavy gun battle is taking place between Afghan security forces and the attackers. (File photo: AFP)

It is not clear if the meeting was still under way when the attackers entered the compound.

Khogyani said a “large number” of employees had been rescued but there were no details about how many may still be inside.

“I saw a black Corolla car drop three armed men at the gate of the refugees and repatriations department,” a witness told AFP.

At least one of the men blew himself up at the gate and two others entered the building, the witness said.

An AFP reporter could hear gunfire as security forces swarmed into the area.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which comes three days after militants raided a midwife training center in Jalalabad.

Daesh claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack that left at least three people dead and several wounded.

Jalalabad has been the scene of multiple attacks in recent months that have killed dozens, as US and Afghan forces continue offensives against militants.

Most of the attacks were claimed by Daesh, which has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan, mainly in the east and north.

Government buildings are a common target.

On July 11 gunmen raided an education department compound in the city, sparking an hours-long battle with security forces.

At least 11 people were killed in the attack. All were employees of the education department branch and included the director.

A suicide bomb attack claimed by Daesh on a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Jalalabad on July 1 killed 19 people and wounded 21.

Daesh first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 and quickly established a stronghold in Nangarhar.

Intensified aerial and ground operations against the militants have failed to dislodge them.

AFP

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‘Horrors that can’t be told’: Afghan women report Islamic State rapes

July 30, 2018

In Afghanistan, Islamic State is trying to import an entirely foreign ideology

A mother of three from a remote area of northwestern Afghanistan remembers the day the head of a local Islamic State group came to her village, demanding money he said her husband had promised.

FILE PHOTO: An Islamic State flag is seen in this picture illustration. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

“I told him we didn’t have any money but that if we found any we would send it to him. But he didn’t accept that and said I had to be married to one of his people and leave my husband and go with them,” Zarifa said.

“When I refused, the people he had with him took my children to another room and he took a gun and said if I didn’t go with him he would kill me and take my house. And he did everything he could to me.”

Even by the bloody standards of the Afghan war, Islamic State has gained an unmatched reputation for brutality, routinely beheading opponents or forcing them to sit on explosives.

But while forced marriages and rape have been among the most notable features of Islamic State rule in Iraq and Syria they have been much less widely reported in Afghanistan.

While there have been reports in Nangarhar, the eastern province where Islamic State first appeared in 2014 and in Zabul in the south, deep taboos that can make it impossible for women to report sexual abuse make it hard to know its scale.

The group has a growing presence in Zarifa’s province of Jawzjan, on the border with Turkmenistan, exploiting smuggling routes and attracting both foreign fighters as well as unemployed locals and fighting both U.S.-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban.

For Zarifa, the attack forced her to leave her home in the Darzab district of south Jawzjan and seek shelter in the provincial capital of Sheberghan.

“My husband was a farmer and now I can’t face my husband and my neighbors and so, despite the danger, I left,” she said.

TEN MONTHS OF TERROR

Another woman, Samira, who escaped Darzab and now lives in Sheberghan, said fighters came to her house and took her 14 year-old sister to their commander. Like Zarifa, she did not want to use her full name because of the stigma against victims of sexual violence.

“He didn’t marry her and no one else married her but he raped her and his soldiers forced themselves on her and even the head of the village who is in Daesh forced himself on my sister and raped her,” she said. Daesh is an Arabic term for Islamic State.

“This girl was there with Daesh for 10 months but after 10 months she escaped and now she’s with us. But I can’t tell anyone about this out of shame.”

Stories like those told by Samira and Zarifa have emerged in recent months as thousands have fled Darzab.

“Daesh has committed many horrors in Darzab that can’t be told,” said the Taliban’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.

“Daesh does not abide by any rules and there is no doubt about the horrors people have been speaking about.”

Islamic State has no known spokesman in Afghanistan. But the accounts were broadly endorsed by government officials who say Islamic State is trying to import an entirely foreign ideology.

Documents captured in Syria in 2015 revealed ways in which Islamic State theologians regulated the use of female captives for sexual purposes.

“It is completely against our culture and traditions,” said Mohammad Radmanish, a defense ministry spokesman, who said that Darzab was not the only area where rapes and sexual slavery by Islamic State had been reported.

“When they came to our area, everyone knew what these Daesh had come for,” said Kamila, a woman from Darzab, who said that three girls were taken from the area where she lived.

“They would bind a girl or woman from a house and take her with them. At first they said that we would have to marry them. But then, when they took them, many men forced themselves on them and raped them.”

Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie

Reuters

‘Very positive signals’ after U.S., Taliban talks

July 30, 2018

A meeting between a senior U.S. diplomat and Taliban representatives in Doha last week to discuss a possible ceasefire ended with “very positive signals” and a decision to hold more meetings, people with knowledge of the talks said on Sunday.

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FILE PHOTO: Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz/File Photo

The meeting between a delegation led by Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Taliban representatives was first reported in The Wall Street Journal but has not been officially confirmed.

According to one Taliban official, who said he was part of a four-member delegation, there were “very positive signals” from the meeting, which he said was conducted in a “friendly atmosphere” in a Doha hotel.

“You can’t call it peace talks,” he said. “These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue.”

He said the talks had been held without the presence of Afghan government officials at the insistence of the Taliban.

The move comes as the Afghan government and the United States have stepped up efforts to end the 17 year-war in Afghanistan following the unprecedented three-day truce during last month’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The truce, which saw unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with soldiers on the streets of Kabul and other cities, offered the first concrete vision of a peace settlement since an earlier attempt at peace talks broke down in 2015.

Although the Taliban refused an offer by President Ashraf Ghani to extend the Eid ceasefire, behind-the-scenes contacts have continued and the government has said it is considering another ceasefire during next month’s Eid-al Qurban holiday.

As hopes of possible formal negotiations have risen, the United States has agreed to participate directly in the talks, although it insists the process will remain under Afghan leadership.

FREE MOVEMENT

The Taliban official said the talks took place with the approval of the leadership council. The two sides had discussed proposals to allow the Taliban free movement in two provinces where they would not be attacked, an idea that President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected. They also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.

“The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban official.

The meeting in Doha, where the Taliban maintains a political office, followed two earlier meetings between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives in recent months, the sources said.

“We have held three meetings with the U.S. and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations,” said a second Taliban official.

He said they would first exchange prisoners and then discuss other issues that could restore peace to Afghanistan.

“However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn,” he said.

Another person with knowledge of the talks said the United States had pressed the Taliban side to accept the ceasefire offer for Eid-ul Adha, often known in Afghanistan as Eid-al Qurban, which this year starts on Aug. 22.

“So a long-term ceasefire is expected on Eid-ul Adha,” the person said. “Both sides agreed upon the continuation of the meetings and talks and another meeting is expected before Eid, but the exact time and place is not clear yet.”

The State Department confirmed that Wells had visited Doha but has said only that she met United Arab Emirates government officials, including the deputy prime minister, to talk about their contributions to the situation in Afghanistan.

Asked about talks with the Taliban, a State Department spokesman referred to a July 9 comment from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the United States would “support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them.”

Ghani’s main spokesman Haroon Chakansuri said last week that peace talks would be Afghan-led and would build on international consensus in support of peace.

Additional reporting by Sarah Lynch in WASHINGTON; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Adrian Croft

Reuters

Blasts, gunshots reported in eastern Afghan city — Midwife training facility for women under attack

July 28, 2018

A number of explosions were reported in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and gunshots could be heard in the area of a dormitory for trainee midwives, local officials said on Saturday.

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Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial government spokesman, said at least some of the students, most of them from Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan, had been evacuated from the building.

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Attaullah Khogyani,

Smoke could be seen rising from the site as security forces and ambulances rushed to the scene, which was blocked off to traffic. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The attack is the latest in a series to have hit Jalalabad in recent weeks, causing dozens of casualties.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but recent attacks have been claimed by Islamic State, which has a stronghold in the surrounding province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.

Reporting by Ahmad Sultan, Rafiq Shirzad; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Michael Perry

Reuters

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Militants attack Afghan midwife training centre — Islamic State claimed most recent attacks — Ethnic cleansing?

July 28, 2018

Several gunmen stormed a midwife training centre in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, wounding at least three people, officials said, as witnesses reported seeing plumes of smoke rising above the compound.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.

A witness near the scene told AFP he could hear sporadic gunfire, suggesting the attack may be ongoing.

© AFP/File | Jalalabad has been the scene of several attacks in recent months that have killed dozens

Several midwives have been rescued, provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.

Provincial health department spokesman Inamullah Miakhil confirmed its midwife centre had been attacked.

A witness in a nearby department told AFP he heard several explosions and then saw three gunmen enter the lane where the midwife centre is located.

Ambulances and members of the security forces have swarmed the area, with some of the security forces appearing to be dismantling several improvised explosive devices in the street, a witness told AFP.

Jalalabad has been the scene of several attacks in recent months that have killed dozens, as US and Afghan forces continue offensive operations against militants.

Most of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Government buildings are a common target for insurgents.

The last major attack in Jalalabad happened on July 11 when gunmen raided an education department compound in the city, sparking an hours-long battle with security forces.

At least 11 people were killed in the attack. All were employees of the education department branch and included the director.

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A suicide bomb attack claimed by IS on a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Jalalabad on July 1 killed at least 19 people and wounded 21.

The Taliban is Afghanistan’s largest militant group and IS has a relatively small but potent presence, mainly in the east and north of the country.

It first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 and quickly established a stronghold in Nangarhar.

Intensified aerial and ground operations against the militants have failed to dislodge them.

AFP

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Two dead in militant attack on Afghan govt office: officials

July 11, 2018

Gunmen stormed an education department compound in Afghanistan’s restive east Wednesday and were battling security forces in an ongoing attack that has left at least two people dead, officials said.

Five others have been wounded in the second attack in Jalalabad city in as many days and a number of employees were trapped inside the building, Nangarhar provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.

© AFP | Map of Afghanistan locating attack in Jalalabad

Security forces were trying to clear the militants from the compound and rescue the workers. It was not clear how many gunmen or employees were inside.

A security guard employed by the department was among the dead, Khogyani said.

Jalalabad health director Najibullah Kamawal confirmed five wounded people had been brought to hospital so far.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the raid.

Nangarhar’s provincial capital has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks, with the Islamic State group claiming most of the attacks.

On Tuesday, a suicide attack in the city killed at least 12 people and ignited a nearby petrol station, with witnesses describing screaming victims “swallowed” by flames.

The bomber was targeting Afghan security forces when he blew himself up. Ten civilians were among the dead.

IS claimed that attack via its Amaq propaganda agency.

The group has claimed a series of high-casualty suicide bomb attacks in the province in recent weeks, as US and Afghan forces continue offensive operations against the group.

While the Taliban is Afghanistan’s largest militant group, IS has a relatively small but potent presence, mainly in the north and east of the country.

Wednesday’s attack comes a day after President Ashraf Ghani flew to Brussels to attend a NATO summit where he will be hoping to get a greater commitment from members to the nearly 17-year conflict.

Currently, there are about 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, providing the main component of the NATO mission there to support and train local forces.

The attack also coincides with the start of a university entrance exam for more than 16,000 students in Jalalabad, but it was not clear if the two events were linked.

The attack comes exactly a month after militants raided the education department in the city.

In that incident a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the department, triggering a fierce battle between gunmen and security forces.

At least 10 people were wounded after terrified employees jumped out of the windows.

A recent ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban during the Islamic holiday Eid had raised hopes that an end to hostilities in the war-weary country was possible.

Since then, however, the Taliban has returned to the battlefield and IS, which was not involved in the truce, has continued to carry out deadly attacks.

Nangarhar borders Pakistan, which has been under growing US pressure to crack down on extremist groups operating in the country.

Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and providing safe haven to its leaders, charges Islamabad denies.

Pakistan, in return, has accused Afghanistan of sheltering the Pakistani Taliban.

AFP

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At least 12 dead, including children, in Afghan suicide blast

July 10, 2018

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed at least 12 people, including several children, on Tuesday, in an attack in the eastern city of Jalalabad claimed by Islamic State militants.

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An Afghan policeman inspects damaged vehicles after a suicide attack in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

The attacker detonated his explosives near a petrol pump, killing two officials working for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, and sparking a big fire.

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Islamic State claimed the attack in a statement on their Amaq news agency.

“A martyrdom attack using an explosives jacket hit a gathering of Afghan intelligence,” the militants said.

Inamullah Miakhel, a spokesman for the provincial health department, said five wounded people were taken to a hospital.

Last week, an Islamic State suicide bomber targeted Afghanistan’s Sikh minority in Jalalabad, killing 13 members of the community.

Attacks by IS fighters are being launched at a time when U.S. and Afghan special forces are trying to end the militants’ control of a remote district in Nangarhar province where they have their main stronghold.

Jalalabad is the capital of the province.

The fight against Islamic State and other militant groups including al Qaeda is at the heart of the U.S. counterterrorism mission being conducted alongside a NATO-led mission that trains and advises Afghan security forces.

Additional reporting by Qadir Sediqi; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Robert Birsel;

Reuters

Multiple blasts hit eastern Afghan city, gun battle underway

May 13, 2018

Afghan security forces battled a group of attackers who stormed a government building in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday in a coordinated attack that killed at least six people and wounded dozens, local officials said.

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Smoke rises from the site of a blast and gunbattle between Afghan security forces and a handful of militants in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan May 13, 2018.REUTERS/Parwiz

At least three explosions were heard at the start of the attack, in a building housing the state accounts office, Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor said.

The attack, in a busy area of the city with many other official buildings nearby, is the latest in a series that have killed and wounded hundreds in Afghanistan this year and put heavy pressure on the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Most have been in the capital Kabul, but in January, gunmen attacked an office of aid group Save the Children in Jalalabad, killing at least five people and wounding 25.

Inamullah Miakhel, a local health department spokesman, said at least six people had been killed in Sunday’s attack and around 30 wounded had been brought city hospitals, the number of casualties could rise with the battle still going.

The attack began when one attacker blew himself up at the gate of the building in the centre of the city, allowing the gunmen to enter, Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council, told Reuters. More explosions were then heard coming from inside the building, he added.

He said at least four attackers, armed with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns, still appeared to be fighting police.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Violence has escalated across Afghanistan since the announcement of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive last month and there have been heightened security fears around preparations for elections in October.

Dozens of people have been killed in voter registration centres in recent weeks.

At the same time, Taliban fighters have stepped up the pressure on government forces across the country, from Baghlan province in the north, where they seized a district centre last week, to Farah in the southwest or Ghazni south of Kabul.

Last year, the United States stepped up its support to struggling Afghan forces, announcing plans for thousands of additional advisers and increasing air strikes in a bid to force the Taliban to enter peace negotiations.

(Additional reporting by Rafiq Sherzad, writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)