Afghan jihadists loyal to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) have closed down 57 schools in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province located along the Pakistan border, a known hotbed for high levels of terrorist activity.
The closures have left an estimated 30,000 children without access to education, VICE News learned from Nangarhar’s Education Department spokesman Mohammed Asif.
ISIS loyalists, over the past few weeks, forced schools to shut down across the districts of Achin, Kot and, Dih Bala in Nangarhar, accordion to Asif.
“They’ve all been closed by IS,” Asif told VICE News, using the IS abbreviation for the Islamic State. “We are working closely with Afghan security forces and tribal elders to reopen these schools. We are committed to that and we are working hard to do whatever we can to keep the schools open.”
Most insurgent activity throughout the ongoing Afghanistan war, which started in October 2001, has been concentrated in provinces in and around the Pakistan border, like Nangarhar.
Since ISIS declared in January that Afghanistan and Pakistan were part of its “Khorasan province,” Nangarhar has seen a surge in ISIS-linked violence.
A number of jihadists in the region, including former Taliban terrorists, have pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi since the Khorasan province was established early this year.
Afghan militants have “begun to enforce the extreme interpretation of Islamic law [Baghdadi] espouses in territory under their control,” reports VICE News.
Khorasan is a historic name for a region that covers territory in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, and other surrounding countries.
“Jihadists consider the Khorasan to be the area where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant – Israel, Syria, and Lebanon,” reported The Long War Journal in May 2012.
It remains unclear if ISIS loyalists are in direct contact with the group’s senior leadership in Syria and Iraq.
However, officials reportedly told the Associated Press that gunmen hoisting the ISIS black flag had murdered dozens of civilians, prohibited females from having access to education, and assaulted and kidnapped teachers.
“Much of this [ISIS] expansion has been achieved through recruitment from pre-existing extremist Islamic militant groups, including commanders from the Taliban, which is waging a 14-year insurgency against the US-backed government in Kabul,” notes VICE News.
“The rival jihadists quickly clashed, and by July, Nangarhar’s police chief said more than 200 IS and Taliban members had been killed in the province due to inter-group fighting,” it adds.
ISIS released one of its signature gruesome videos in August, purportedly showing ten Taliban terrorists being forced to kneel on top of buried bombs and then blown up.
VICE News notes that the footage could not be independently verified, but was allegedly shot in Nangarhar in June.
“This offense and other such brutal actions by a few irresponsible ignorant individuals under the guise of Islam and Muslims are intolerable,” said the Taliban in responding to the video, according to Reuters.