NANGARHAR -- The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) Khorasan branch has suffered a catastrophic defeat in Nangarhar Province, local officials and residents say.
"A total of five villages in Kot -- Sipai, Banuk, Pouregi, Saheban and Barshakhil -- used to be controlled by ISIS, all of which have now been cleared ... and people are no longer threatened by this terrorist group," Kot District Governor Sayed ur Rehman told Salaam Times.
"Most residents of these villages have gone home," he said.
"The government is going to repair the houses that ISIS destroyed or that were damaged during security forces' operations," he said.
"Many Kot residents who had been forced to leave their homes because of ISIS's oppression have returned to their villages with great joy and excitement, while many other families are in the process of returning," Rehman said.
"We have long-term plans to permanently provide Kot residents with security and to protect their lives and property," he added.
"The local government has decided to establish two permanent security headquarters in Kot," he said. "In these headquarters, forces from the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and the local police will provide security for entire regions in Kot."
"We will not allow ISIS or any other illegal groups to again dominate these areas and disrupt people's lives and security," he said.
ISIS suffered 'epic defeat'
Security operations targeting ISIS will continue they have eliminated the group, say local officials.
"ISIS has suffered an epic defeat in more than 96% of areas under its control," said Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor.
"In the past two weeks alone, about 400 ISIS members, including dozens of their commanders, have been killed by Operation Hamza," he told Salaam Times April 27.
The on-going Operation Hamza, launched in early March, aims to eliminate ISIS from Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
"Most residents of Kot and Achin districts have returned to their normal lives," Khogyani said.
"Almost 100% of Kot District has been cleared of ISIS members," he said. "We have established various types of assistance for returning residents ... including reconstruction of their homes, establishment of schools and health clinics, and, if necessary, help in their agricultural work."
"My family and I were forced to leave our home since ISIS fighters had turned our house into their military bunker," said Abdurraouf, a farmer in Saheban village, Kot District.
"I am very happy that we were able to return to our house," he told Salaam Times. "I have plenty of farmland, and I intend to return to what I used to do."
'Safe and secure environment'
Achin District Governor Haji Esmail Shinwari credits the US military's Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, dropped in Nangarhar on April 13, for destroying three ISIS hideouts and their network of tunnels.
The bombing killed about 90 militants, according to Afghan officials, who also ruled out any civilian casualties.
"As a result of this attack, coupled with the continuation of the Afghan forces' military operations, the militants' key strategic centres in Achin District have been destroyed," Shinwari told Salaam Times.
Hundreds of residents already have returned to their homes in Achin District, he said.
"The situation is back to normal, and security is provided in most areas that once were under ISIS control," he said. "Farmers are busy with their agricultural work, all shops and stores have reopened, and people live in a secure environment."
"A major operation is currently under way to eliminate the last remaining ISIS members in Momand Dara District," he added.
Residents return and rebuild
Mohammad Shaker, a shopkeeper from Achin District, said he and his family fled their house and shop about a year ago because of ISIS's savagery.
"Although my shop has been destroyed ... I am happy that we no longer have ISIS, nor do we have to deal with ISIS's fear and terror," he told Salaam Times. "We have returned to our home."
"I have decided to rebuild my shop and make it prettier than ever," Shaker said. "I thank Nangarhar's brave security forces."
"Now that the ISIS militants have been defeated in Kot, Achin and other districts of Nangarhar Province and people are returning to their homes, it is high time for security forces to establish check-points in these areas, so that all residents ... can return to their areas with confidence," Zabihullah Zemarai, a member of the Nangarhar provincial council, told Salaam Times.
"Moreover, the central and local governments must execute necessary development programmes in these regions as soon as possible," he said.