The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and the Taliban are denying involvement in a terrorist attack that left many poor civilians dead in Eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, according to media reports.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Khaama Press and other news outlets report that ISIS and the Taliban have declared jihad against each other.
Khaama Press notes that the Taliban opposes ISIS and vice versa.
ISIS leader Abdu Bakar Al-Baghdadi has reportedly called his Taliban counterpart Mullah Mohammad Omar “a fool and illiterate warlord.”
“Al-Baghdadi has said that Mullah Omar does not deserve a spiritual or political credibility,” writes Khaama Press. “While on the other hand Taliban fighters have been ordered by their leaders not to let [ISIS] flag raise in Afghanistan.”
Nabi Jan Mullahkhil, the police chief of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold along the Pakistan border, reportedly told Mashaal Radio he has documents showing that both groups have declared jihad on each other.
The announcement comes after both groups denied involvement in Saturday’s suicide bombing in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
At least 35 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in the attack.
Maulvi Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, identified as both the spokesman for ISIS in Afghanistan and the jihadist group’s self-proclaimed leader in the country, told The Daily Beast and Pajhwok Afghan News that ISIS was not involved in the deadly suicide attack.
The Daily Beast adds that U.S. officials agree and suggest that the Taliban is likely responsible.
However, the Taliban has also denied involvement in the attack.
“We have not yet seen evidence of ISIS direction or support of the attacks. Jalalabad continues to be an area with significant Taliban influence and this attack fits the pattern of past Taliban attacks in the region—underscoring that this attack does not represent a fundamental change in the security environment,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, told The Daily Beast. “Along with our partners in the Afghan security forces, we are looking closely to determine any connection with ISIS.”
Muslim Dost, who was once held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “strongly condemned the attack,” claiming that ISIS “never kills civilians and innocent people,” notes Pajhwok Afghan News.
He reportedly accused “Pakistan intelligence agencies” of spreading lies about ISIS’s involvement to damage the jihadist group’s reputation.
Nangarhar, where the attack took place, borders Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which has been described by the Pentagon as a Taliban sanctuary.
“ISIS was not behind the deadly blast in Jalalabad, and we condemn such an attack,” Muslim Dost told The Daily Beast. “This is an act of the Pakistani agencies to damage reputation of the ISIS.”
The Daily Beast suggests that neither the Taliban nor ISIS wants to be held responsible for the attack because it resulted in the massacre of mostly poor Afghan civilians.
ISIS members have reportedly been confirmed to be operating in Afghanistan.
Early this year, ISIS announced its expansion into the Khorasan, a historic name for a region that includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India, and other surrounding countries.
Nevertheless, unnamed U.S. officials told The Daily Beast “there is no evidence of widespread funding or fighters traveling from the Arab world to places like Afghanistan.”
“Rather, U.S. officials said, they see ISIS trying to reach a more basic goal: to establish relationships with fellow jihadists. Former Taliban members in Afghanistan have ‘defected’ to ISIS; militants in Libya have pledged allegiance, as has Boko Haram in Nigeria,” adds The Daily Beast. “But so far, these officials added, they aren’t seeing the terror groups banding together in an operational or strategic sense.”
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83
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