Tale­ban, IS jointly mas­sa­cred 50 civil­ians: Afghan of­fi­cials

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Tale­ban and Is­lamic State group jointly mas­sa­cred dozens of civil­ians in an Afghan vil­lage, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, high­light­ing rare co-op­er­a­tion be­tween the in­sur­gents that could in­crease the strain on Afghanistan’s be­lea­guered se­cu­rity forces. The fight­ers killed more than 50 men, women and chil­dren in the re­mote Sayad dis­trict of north­ern Sar-e Pul prov­ince on Sat­ur­day af­ter over­run­ning the Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice (ALP) — a gov­ern­ment-backed mili­tia-in a 48-hour bat­tle, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal of­fi­cials.

“It was a joint op­er­a­tion by Daesh (IS) and Tale­ban fight­ers. They had re­cruited forces from other prov­inces of the coun­try and at­tacked Mirza­walang vil­lage,” Zabi­hul­lah Amani, a spokesman for the pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor, told AFP. The spokesman al­leged that dozens of Tale­ban and IS group fight­ers un­der the com­mand of Sher Mo­ham­mad Ghaz­an­far, a lo­cal Tale­ban com­man­der who Amani claims pledged allegiance to IS, launched a co­or­di­nated at­tack on the area on Thurs­day.

“The fight­ers over­ran the area and it led to the mas­sacre of in­no­cent and de­fence­less civil­ians,” he said. The ma­jor­ity of those killed were Shi­ites. Most were shot but some were be­headed, Amani added. Ver­i­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion from poor, moun­tain­ous ar­eas of Afghanistan made in­ac­ces­si­ble by fight­ing and with patchy com­mu­ni­ca­tions is dif­fi­cult, and AFP was not able to ac­cess the vil­lage.

Mo­ham­mad Noor Rah­mani, head of Sare Pul’s pro­vin­cial coun­cil, said 44 of the 50 vic­tims were be­lieved to be civil­ians, with the ALP mili­tia also suf­fer­ing ca­su­al­ties. “This is not the fi­nal toll. It might change be­cause the area is in­ac­ces­si­ble and no tele­phone net­works are work­ing to get an up­date,” he told AFP. The Tale­ban and IS fight­ers have reg­u­larly clashed since the lat­ter gained a foothold in east­ern Afghanistan in 2015, as the two vie for supremacy in the war-torn coun­try.

An Afghan se­cu­rity source told AFP there had been around three in­ci­dents in the past where fight­ers from both groups had teamed up to strike Afghan forces in cer­tain ar­eas. “This is not the first time that they have co-op­er­ated. There are no strict ide­o­log­i­cal dis­tinc­tions be­tween them so they build bridges when it helps them both. It’s very op­por­tunis­tic,” the source said.

IS has been ad­ding a sec­tar­ian twist to the Afghan con­flict, with a num­ber of deadly at­tacks on Shi­ites in the past year. Last week two sui­cide bombers throw­ing grenades killed more than 33 wor­ship­pers at a mosque in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat, in an at­tack claimed by IS. A resur­gent Tale­ban, whose ranks are mostly made up of Sunni Mus­lim eth­nic Pash­tuns, is at the peak of its sum­mer fight­ing sea­son.

Zabi­hul­lah Mu­jahid, a spokesman for the Tale­ban, con­firmed to AFP that it had cap­tured Mirza­walang vil­lage but said it had done so alone. It also de­nied al­le­ga­tions it had killed civil­ians. “It was an in­de­pen­dent op­er­a­tion by our mu­jahideen forces. There is no co­op­er­a­tion with the Is­lamic State on the op­er­a­tion,” said the spokesman. — AFP

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