February 27, 2023
ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan’s Taliban said Monday their security forces killed two key Islamic State commanders in an overnight counterterrorism raid against their hideout in the capital, Kabul.
The announcement came hours before the United States said in a new report that up to 3,000 IS fighters were operating in the South Asian nation and conducting terrorist activities.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a late-night statement that “the intelligence and operations chief of Daesh” in Afghanistan was also among those killed in the operation late Sunday. He identified the slain terror leader as Qari Fateh.
Daesh, or Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), is an Afghan affiliate of Islamic State and a key Taliban adversary.
Mujahid said Fateh had masterminded recent attacks against diplomatic missions, mosques and other targets in Kabul.
“The criminal was served justice last night for his brutal actions at the hands of IEA [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] special forces during a complex operation in the Kher Khana residential area [in Kabul],” he noted, using the official title for the Taliban government.
IS-K did not immediately comment on the Taliban’s claims of killing its top leader.
Mujahid also confirmed in his statement Monday that a Taliban counterterrorism operation earlier this month had killed the IS-K chief for the Indian subcontinent, Ijaz Amin Ahangar, along with his two commanders. He added, without elaborating, that “a number of Daesh members, including foreigners” were also detained in recent days.
IS-K last week confirmed the death of Ahangar, also known as Abu Usman Al-Kashmiri, saying in a statement he was killed in a clash with the Taliban on February 14 but did not mention the exact location.
The Taliban have periodically carried out operations against IS-K since returning to power in Kabul in August 2021 as U.S.-led foreign troops withdrew from the country.
For its part, the terrorist group has routinely launched high-profile attacks targeting civilians, Taliban members and foreign diplomatic missions in the country.
The United States describes IS-K as a “dangerous” affiliate of Islamic State and remains skeptical about the effectiveness of Taliban counterterrorism efforts.
The U.S. State Department issued the 2021 country reports on terrorism on Monday, noting that IS and other regionally focused terror groups maintained “an active presence” and conducted terrorist activities in Afghanistan.
“ISIS-K remained a resilient enemy with roughly 2,000 to 3,000 fighters in the country, although precise estimates are hard to determine,” the report said. “Although the Taliban committed to preventing terrorist groups from using Afghanistan to stage attacks against the United States or others, the extent of its ability and willingness to prevent AQ [al-Qaida] and ISIS-K from mounting external operations remained unclear,” it added.
The international community has not yet recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, urging them to respect human rights, lift education and work bans on women, cut ties with terrorist groups, and govern the country through a politically inclusive government.
The Taliban defend their governance, saying it is in line with local culture and Islamic law. They have also dismissed the reported presence of thousands of IS-K fighters in Afghanistan as baseless.