The Taliban said Saturday their special forces had killed nine Islamic State operatives and captured two others in overnight raids in the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban government, said that intelligence information had led security forces to an “important hideout of Daesh” in Kabul late Friday. He used a local name for the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K.
Mujahid said the ensuing gunbattles killed six militants and one Taliban security force member. The raid came shortly after security forces had captured two key ISIS-K members in a separate operation in another part of Kabul, he noted without elaborating.
Separately, the Taliban-led Afghan Interior Ministry said Saturday that “on the basis of solid intelligence” government forces late last night assaulted an ISIS-K hideout in northeastern Takhar province, which borders Tajikistan. The raid in the Dasht Qala district killed three Daesh members, including an “important” commander, the statement said.
Mujahid claimed that all the six Daesh men killed in Kabul were linked to recent suicide bombings in the city, one on an educational center and the other on a mosque.
“They had plotted attacks on Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan Mosque, the Kaaj tuition center and other civilian targets,” Mujahid said.
The blast at the female section of the packed tuition center on September 30 killed 53 people, mostly girls and young women, and injured 110 people. It came just days after a bomb exploded at the main mosque in the heavily guarded Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, which houses key government offices and foreign diplomatic missions.
No group to date has claimed responsibility for either attack.
The Taliban seized power more than a year ago when all American and allied troops left Afghanistan after 20 years of involvement in the war. The Islamist rulers maintain they have since brought peace to much of the country and claim their operations against ISIS-K have largely degraded its ability to pose a serious security challenge.
But ISIS-K, which launched its extremist activities in early 2015, has intensified attacks in the country, mostly targeting members of the minority Shiite Muslim Hazara community, raising questions about Taliban claims.
U.S. officials see ISIS-K as a growing threat in the crisis-ridden South Asian nation.
Thomas West, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, told VOA that in his meeting with the Taliban earlier this month in Doha, Qatar, the two sides discussed the emerging threat of Daesh.
“We discussed the Taliban’s efforts to fight Daesh. Daesh is a common enemy of the United States and all Afghans. The horrific attacks against Hazaras must stop,” West told VOA.
“The Taliban have made clear that this is their fight and effort, and they will fulfil their commitments outlined in the Doha agreement to ensure that terrorists do not threaten the United States or her allies,” the U.S. envoy said.
He referred to the February 2020 deal Washington signed with the then-insurgent Taliban, paving the way for all U.S.-led international forces to withdraw from Afghanistan in return of the Taliban’s counterterrorism assurances.
West described as “extremely concerning” the attacks by terrorists, ISIS-K in particular, launched from Afghan soil over the past year against neighboring Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Washington has a “definite interest in ensuring that those types of attacks are contained,” the U.S. envoy emphasized.
VOA’s Urdu Service contributed to this story.