Popular uprisings in Nangarhar strive to stamp out ISIS
KABUL -- Popular uprisings against "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Nangarhar Province are keeping the militants at bay, members of the uprising and local officials say.
ISIS planned to build the headquarters of its Khorasan (Afghanistan and Pakistan) branch in Nangarhar Province, but military operations and popular uprisings have put an end to those ambitions.
"We will never forget the crimes and oppression that ISIS has committed against our people," Abdul Azim, 29, a resident of Nazyan District and a member of the popular uprising, told Salaam Times.
"During its presence of two years in Nangarhar, the group burned down our homes and farms, murdered our religious scholars and tribal elders, harassed our women and committed scores of other crimes," he said.
After witnessing the oppression and tyranny of ISIS fighters in the province, local residents decided to take up arms and fight them.
It has been a year since Azim, along with dozens of other Nazyan District residents, have taken up arms within the framework of popular uprisings, he said.
During clashes between militants and residents on September 10, members of the popular uprising killed four ISIS members and arrested two others.
"Although ISIS has been destroyed in Nangarhar thanks to the co-operation of popular uprisings, and even though we no longer have a serious concern regarding its destructive activities, we will not lay down our weapons until the very last ISIS militant is eliminated," Azim said.
The uprisings have forced all remaining ISIS fighters to flee to the mountains, he said.
ISIS on the run
Members of the popular uprising killed four ISIS members, confirmed Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor.
Residents also recovered three Kalashnikov rifles and a suicide vest from the militants, he said.
"ISIS has been defeated in Nangarhar Province, which once was its centre [in Afghanistan]," he told Salaam Times.
"ISIS is no longer capable of fighting and resisting the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces," he said. "Its number has shrunk from thousands to hundreds, and the few of them who have survived have taken refuge in remote mountains of Nangarhar."
"ISIS has completely lost its capacity to carry out attacks and terrorist activities," Khogyani said, adding that its members "rarely ... sneak down the mountains to carry out destructive actions".
For example, on September 12, ISIS militants killed a religious scholar inside a mosque in Kandi Bagh village, Chaparhar District, he said.
"Over a period of two years more than 3,000 ISIS members have been killed in Nangarhar Province by security forces, popular uprisings and international forces' air strikes," Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, told Salaam Times.
"In the latest case, 51 militants were killed and seven others were injured in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces from September 7 through September 12," he said.
"In addition to successive operations carried out by Afghan security forces as well as international forces' air strikes, the popular uprisings have also played a major role in defeating ISIS in Nangarhar Province," Waziri said.
Breaking the backbone of ISIS
The popular uprisings have dealt devastating blows to ISIS, said Esmatullah Shinwari, a member of parliament from Nangarhar.
"The security forces were determined to defeat ISIS in Nangarhar," he told Salaam Times. "The popular uprisings that took place in the districts of Kot, Shinwar, Achin, Nazyan and Pacheragam over the past year and a half ... have broken the backbone of ISIS."
"Local residents are familiar with their areas ... and hence, they have been able to easily fight ISIS," Shinwari said.
"I personally witnessed many occasions when ISIS militants wanted to launch an operation from a village to target another village, at which point residents of the former village informed their fellow villagers in the latter one via their mobile phones ... so that they could be prepared to defend themselves," he said.
Co-operation and co-ordination among local residents have led the participants of the popular uprisings to block ISIS's terrorist activities and to carry out an organised fight against the group, Shinwari said.
"The creeds and actions of ISIS militants are not only contrary to the values and culture of Afghans; they are also in complete contradiction with Islamic decrees and principles," he said. "This group has committed unprecedented crimes in Nangarhar."