The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in Afghanistan has taken responsibility for an attack on a government-controlled television station in the jihadist group’s stronghold of Nangarhar province that left at least six people and an estimated 14 others wounded.
Nangarhar’s capital Jalalabad, where the suicide attack took place, is also home to the local ISIS wing’s Voice of the Caliphate, a pirate radio station aimed at recruiting jihadists and airing anti-government Islamic rulings.
U.S. and Afghan officials have identified eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, located on the Pakistani border, as the ISIS branch’s bastion in the region.
While Afghan Taliban jihadists, considered ISIS rivals, have denied involvement in the siege on the U.S.-backed government-owned National Radio Television in Afghanistan (RTA), ISIS claimed responsibility through its Amaq news agency.
“ISIS fighters are currently carrying out an attack inside the state broadcasting building in the city of Jalalabad,” declared ISIS.
There are conflicting reports on the number of casualties. Some news outlets claim that ISIS killed at least six people at RTA, including employees of the state broadcaster and at least one police officer.
Citing the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani, Afghanistan’s TOLO News reports, “There had been five attackers in total. One was a suicide bomber who blew himself up, three were killed by security forces and the fifth was arrested.”
Al Jazeera adds:
At least six people, including a police officer, have been killed after assailants wearing suicide vests stormed a national television and radio station in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, government officials say.
The attackers, carrying AK-47s, entered Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) on Wednesday, in the latest assault on news media workers in the country.
According to some news agencies, ISIS wounded at least 14 people, including journalists.
The attack took place “in central Jalalabad, close to the provincial governor’s office and a busy square,” points out Al Jazeera.
U.S.-backed Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which include police and army units, have been engaged in an offensive to clear Nangarhar province of the local ISIS branch known as the Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).
Moreover, the American military also dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, dubbed the “mother of all bombs,” on ISIS targets in Nangarhar in April, killing at least 90 terrorists, according to Afghan officials.
In its most recent World Wide Threat Assessment, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats wrote:
The overall situation in Afghanistan will very likely continue to deteriorate, even if international support is sustained. Endemic state weaknesses, the government’s political fragility, deficiencies of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), Taliban persistence, and regional interference will remain key impediments to improvement.
“ISIS’s Khorasan branch (ISIS-K) — which constitutes ISIS’s most significant presence in South Asia — will probably remain a low-level developing threat to Afghan stability as well as to US and Western interests in the region in 2017,” it adds.