Dozens die as ter­ror­ists try to seize east Afghanistan

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Ben Farmer DEFENCE COR­RE­SPON­DENT

DOZENS were killed yes­ter­day as se­cu­rity forces fought Isil mil­i­tants try­ing to seize power in parts of eastern Afghanistan.

Fight­ers pledg­ing al­le­giance to the ter­ror­ist move­ment, also known as Daesh, at­tacked check­points in the Kot area of Nan­garhar prov­ince.

As many as 36 mil­i­tants were killed in the as­saults, with at least a dozen po­lice and civil­ians also los­ing their lives.

It comes three months af­ter pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani said the ter­ror­ists had been wiped out in Afghanistan.

Ex­trem­ists had set up an off­shoot of the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (Isil) mil­i­tant group there in 2014, go­ing on to fight both the Afghan gov­ern­ment and Tal­iban in­sur­gents in a bid to in­crease their in­flu­ence.

The US mil­i­tary es­ti­mates up to 3,000 Isil fight­ers are in Afghanistan, mostly dis­af­fected Pak­istani and Afghan Tal­iban, as well as Uzbek Is­lamists and lo­cals.

Saleem Khan Kun­duzi, the gov­er­nor of Nan­garhar prov­ince, said: “There is no doubt that Daesh do not re­spect any­one.

“They kill peo­ple, re­gard­less of whether they’re a child or a woman. They burn down madrasas, mosques and schools.”

Sediq An­sari, the head of Afghanistan’s civil so­ci­ety fed­er­a­tion, blamed lo­cal lead­ers for fail­ing to tackle the threat from Isil.

He told the Reuters news agency: “They should be ac­count­able for ev­ery drop of blood that has been shed in Nan­garhar so it be­comes a les­son to other of­fi­cials.”

Isil is also a bit­ter foe of the Tal­iban move­ment in Afghanistan, which it ac­cuses of lack­ing Is­lamic zeal.

The US Air Force has be­gun launch­ing air strikes on its po­si­tions in the coun­try.

So far this year, 60 to 80 Amer­i­can air raids have tar­geted Isil in Afghanistan, in­clud­ing at­tacks by drones and strike air­craft.

Isil’s lead­er­ship is now be­lieved to have left Nan­garhar and moved north­wards into the neigh­bour­ing Ku­nar prov­ince.

That could be the next tar­get if the group has the strength to ex­pand.

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