The horrific new face of terrorism in Afghanistan: ISIS-K sees the Taliban as too liberal

Three young men, wearing white coats and carrying a stethoscope, walked unchallenged to the 400-bed Sardar Muhammad Daoud Khan Hospital in Kabul and made their way to the upper floors.

Then, outside the building opposite the heavily fortified US Embassy, ​​there was a thunderous bang.

The noise from a comrade’s exploding explosive vest signaled the trio to pull a selection of grenades and AK-47 assault rifles from under their medical clothes, before firing.

By the time the chaos subsided, several hours later, more than 30 doctors and patients had been killed and about 50 more injured.

Other losses included the three attackers, who were shot by Afghan Special Forces, as well as the original bomber, and a fifth member of the terrorist gang who detonated a car bomb inside the hospital compound.

A former Pakistani Taliban commander named Hafiz Saeed Khan (center) led ISIS until his death in a drone strike in 2016.

Their brazen and ruthless attack, revealed in broad daylight one March afternoon, was carried out in the name of ISIS-K, the local branch of the infamous global terror network.

Founded in 2015, its adherents aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial “K”) – a historical region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan along with parts of Central Asia.

The terrorist group is now such a threat that the fear of an attack by ISIS is used to justify the United States’ refusal to delay its withdrawal from Kabul airport beyond the August 31 deadline set by Joe Biden.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the US president claimed: “Every day we are on the ground is another day that we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack US and allied forces and innocent civilians.”

The White House appears to believe that ISIS-K (which considers the Taliban as dangerous liberals) is about to orchestrate a wave of attacks in an attempt to destabilize its efforts to form a government.

If so, any foreign forces, including soldiers from the British 16th Air Assault Brigade currently guarding Kabul Airport, would be very high profile targets indeed.

The organization has already carried out nearly 100 attacks against civilian targets and another 250 involving US, Afghan or Pakistani security services, most of which were recorded via horrific mobile phone videos and then gleefully broadcast over the Internet.

One despicable movie, which circulated in June 2017, celebrated the work of a group of child recruits in ISIS Khorasan known as the ‘Lions of the Caliphate’.

Founded in 2015, its followers aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial

Founded in 2015, its adherents aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial “K”) – a historical region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan along with parts of Central Asia.

The film showed two of them – both dressed in black and appearing to be under 12 years old – forcing terrified captives to kneel on the ground.

They proceeded to pull the heads off of the men (who were apparently accused of espionage), rant on the camera and execute them via a single shot to the skull.

Most recently, in May this year, ISIS Khorasan killed at least 68 Afghans and wounded 165 others when they detonated three car bombs outside the Sayed Al-Shuhada School for Girls in Kabul.

The vast majority of the victims were young students, whom the Islamic group regards as legitimate targets for the sin of teaching while they are female.

The attack came after a period during which Western air strikes killed thousands of the terrorist network’s supporters and at least three of its leaders, and served as a bloody reminder of its continuing ability to bring carnage to the streets of Afghanistan.

ISIS Khorasan posted this photo in an attempt to show unity and strength just days before hundreds of fighters admitted defeat and surrendered

ISIS Khorasan posted this photo in an attempt to show unity and strength just days before hundreds of fighters admitted defeat and surrendered

The fact that a US president admits that his policy is governed by a perceived threat from ISIS-K represents a major coup for a hitherto unremarkable organization.

It first made headlines in January 2016, when the Pentagon announced that the group had been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

This made aiding them a criminal offense and allowed US forces on the ground to actively pursue the members (under previous terms of engagement, they had to wait for the group to attack them before responding).

The organization’s first chosen emir or leader was a former Pakistani Taliban leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan.

His soldiers were mostly people who had defected from the Taliban as was the wise head of public relations, Sheikh Maqbool, who was tasked with ensuring that the group’s horrific attacks gained worldwide attention.

They were appointed at the request of the biggest dog of ISIS (at that time) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was facing difficulties in his trampled land in Syria and Iraq, so they began to transfer money to Khan in order to create a new stronghold in the east.

Initially, their activities were limited to suicide bombings and small arms attacks targeting civilians, along with individual kidnappings, but that was enough to draw the close attention of the United States, which succeeded in killing Khan via a drone strike in July 2016.

An Afghan security force member holds a black and white Islamic State flag in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in August 2020, after ISIS waged a 20-hour gun battle to attack the airspace, storm a prison and release them.  fighters.  Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that ISIS-K poses a significant threat to evacuation efforts in Afghanistan

An Afghan security force member holds a black and white Islamic State flag in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in August 2020, after ISIS Khorasan launched a 20-hour gun battle to attack the airspace, storm a prison and release them. fighters. Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that ISIS-K poses a significant threat to evacuation efforts in Afghanistan

His successor, Abd al-Hasib is the mastermind of the attack on the aforementioned hospital, and was famous for ordering fighters to behead local sheikhs in front of their families, and to kidnap women and girls to force them to ‘marry’ his fighters, i.e. become. sex slaves.

He was killed in a special forces raid on his compound in which two American soldiers were killed in April 2017.

Later that month, the United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal – the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb also known as the ‘mother of all bombs’ – on a major ISIS-K cave and tunnel system in Nangarhar Province. in Afghanistan. About 100 of their soldiers died.

A series of drone strikes then wiped out both Hasib’s successors, Abu Sayed and Abu Saad Orakzai, and about 80 percent of the group’s forces, reducing their estimated strength from between three and four thousand to fewer than 800 followers by the end of 2018.

However, like many armed groups in Afghanistan’s dark history, it has since proven nearly impossible to eradicate completely.

The deaths of successive leaders ended up being largely symbolic, as they were quickly replaced by experienced counterparts who had been relocated from other ISIS strongholds.

New foot soldiers were recruited via adorable propaganda videos outlining their global aspirations to establish an Islamic caliphate across Asia, governed by Sharia, before eventually that.[raising] The banner of punishment over Jerusalem and the White House ‘.

An undated photo of an ISIS leader in Khorasan named Abu Haidar with his seven fighters.  All the men were killed during a clash with Afghan forces in Nangarhar Province, the stronghold of ISIS in Khorasan.

An undated photo of an ISIS leader in Khorasan named Abu Haidar with his seven fighters. All the men were killed during a clash with Afghan forces in Nangarhar Province, the stronghold of ISIS in Khorasan.

This ambition is tantamount to defeating both Israel and the United States (and thus imposing their twisted vision of life on these two countries).

The current leader of the group is believed to be Shihab al-Muhajir, also known as Sanaa.

A UN report published in February stated that he took office in June 2020.

The statement announcing the appointment, which was written in Arabic and translated into Pashto, referred to Al-Muhajir as an experienced military leader and one of the “urban lions” of ISIS in Kabul who had been involved in guerrilla operations and planning suicide and complex attacks.

While Sanaa’s rule may be bad news for the Afghans, it is currently believed to have little ability to launch terrorist attacks in the West.

It instead focuses on a mission to rid Afghanistan and other parts of its territory of foreign “crusaders” who “preach Muslims” as well as “apostates”.

This, in turn, may explain why America is so eager to withdraw from Kabul: Once American troops come home, they are no longer in his organization’s firing line.

For the Afghans left behind, escaping from ISIS’s terrorist rule will not be so simple.

What is ISIS-K?

ISIS-K is one of six or seven regional branches of the Islamic State – K stands for Khorasan region, which historically includes parts of modern Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

ISIS Khorasan began in 2014, as a splinter group from the Pakistani Taliban, whose original leaders were from Pakistan.

In 2015, it was recognized by ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria, and in January 2016 the State Department declared it a terrorist organization.

Its strongholds are in eastern Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan in Nangarhar province, and in northern Afghanistan.

In 2018, the group was weakened in northern Afghanistan, and in 2019 it was hit hard in the east. But in 2020, they regrouped and launched a series of devastating terrorist attacks.

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