Taliban, Daesh jointly massacred 50 civilians: Afghan officials

Smoke rises from the site of a blast in Kabul in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 08 August 2017

Taliban, Daesh jointly massacred 50 civilians: Afghan officials

KABUL: The Taliban and Daesh jointly massacred dozens of civilians in an Afghan village, officials said Monday, highlighting rare cooperation 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 and Taliban 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 Taliban and Daesh fighters under the command of Sher Mohammad Ghazanfar, a local Taliban commander who Amani claims pledged allegiance to Daesh, launched a coordinated attack on the area on Thursday.
“The fighters overran the area and it led to the massacre of innocent and defenseless 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 Sar-e-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 Taliban and Daesh 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 cooperated. There are no strict ideological distinctions between them so they build bridges when it helps them both. It’s very opportunistic,” the source said.
Daesh 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 Daesh.
A resurgent Taliban, 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 Taliban, 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 (Daesh) on the operation,” said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday President Donald Trump has asked his advisers “tough questions” about American strategy in Afghanistan and is not willing to continue on as before.
The White House has launched a review of the US plan for Afghanistan after 16 years of war, and reports suggest that Trump’s national security team is divided on whether to send more troops or to pull out.
Speaking in Manila on the sidelines of a regional security forum, Tillerson did not reveal his own advice to the president — but said Trump would not be content with continuing the fight as before.
“The president is not willing to accept that, so he is asking some tough questions,” Tillerson told reporters.
Tillerson said the president’s National Security Council has met three times on the issue and that Vice President Mike Pence has joined Trump in taking a close interest in the strategy review.


At least 17 killed in Afghan mosque blast

Updated 7 min 12 sec ago

At least 17 killed in Afghan mosque blast

  • The explosion took place in Haska Mina district of eastern Nangarhar province, and wounded at least 40 people
  • The dead were “all worshippers”

JALALABAD: At least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in a blast inside an Afghan mosque during Friday prayers, officials said, a day after the United Nations said violence in the country had reached “unacceptable” levels.
The explosion took place in Haska Mina district of eastern Nangarhar province, and wounded at least 40 people, provincial police spokesman Mubarez Attal told AFP.
The dead were “all worshippers,” he said.
Other officials gave higher tolls, with provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani saying at least 20 had been killed.
A doctor at a hospital in Haska Mina told AFP that “around” 32 bodies had been brought in, along with 50 wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Both the Taliban and Daesh are active in Nangarhar province.
The blast came after the United Nations released a new report on Thursday saying that an “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September.
Civilians have long borne the brunt of violence in Afghanistan’s conflict, and the UN called the casualties “totally unacceptable.”
The UN laid the blame mainly at the feet of anti-government elements such as Daesh and the Taliban, though it also documented an alarming rise in casualties caused by pro-government forces.