KABUL -- Fighting between the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and Taliban groups has escalated in the Darzab and Qush Tepa districts of Jawzjan Province, local officials say.
"On January 17, a bloody fight broke out in the Khwaja Arab and Quragh villages of Darzab District," Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, a spokesman for the Jawzjan governor, told Salaam Times.
The clashes began after Mullah Ghazanfar, an ISIS commander, defected to Taliban forces in Jawzjan Province, as well as after the killing of the brother of Mullah Nadir, the Taliban shadow governor in Sar-e-Pul, according to Ghafoori
"Taliban forces were able to wrest from ISIS the villages of Aqasay, Aq Balaq, Taraghli Afghania, Taraghi Arabia, Khwaja Arab and Qurgh in Darzab District, as well as areas situated northwest of Chaqma Chaghur village in Qush Tepa District," said Ghafoori.
"On January 21, 11 ISIS fighters were killed and one was captured by the Taliban in a fight between militants of the two terrorist groups," he added.
"Moreover, in the battle of January 19, eight ISIS fighters were killed and six others, including an ISIS leader known as Haji Zini, were captured by the Taliban," he said. "Six Taliban militants were killed, according to the security forces."
More violence to come
The Taliban and ISIS stopped fighting each other January 24, but many see the pause as just a brief hiatus in the violence, according to Ghafoori.
"Both groups are on the alert and are ready to start yet another fierce battle in order to defeat each other," he said.
"During this week-long battle, the Taliban have captured large portions of areas in Darzab and Qush Tepa, which were once under ISIS's control," Hafizullah Nudrat, a member of the Jawzjan provincial council, told Salaam Times.
"It is likely that ISIS is going to carry out a major operation against the Taliban, in which case the upcoming battle will be much fiercer than the previous ones," he said.
Civilians not spared from carnage
The fighting has led to deaths and injuries among civilians, many of whom are trapped.
"Since the beginning of the conflict between ISIS and the Taliban, the roads in Darzab and Qush Tepa districts have been closed and residents of these districts have been unable to go to the provincial capital," Nudrat said. "Moreover, the group does not allow residents to leave their homes in areas under its control."
Ghafoori confirmed the road closures, adding that operations by Afghan security forces against the two groups were "taking place in Darzab and Qush Tepa". At least one resident of Darzab District was killed in the cross-fire between the Taliban and ISIS, he said.
"More than 5,000 families were previously displaced from Darzab and Qush Tepa districts by the ISIS's oppression, and this time civilians once again were trapped and were hurt in the battle of the two terror groups," Halima Sadaf Karimi, a member of the Jawzjan provincial council, told Salaam Times.
"Five civilians, three men and two women, were injured in this clash," she said.
"The Taliban and ISIS fought each other for days," Darzab District resident Sharifullah told Salaam Times. "We could hear their gunshots, and I saw their corpses in alleys and streets."
"A number of Darzab residents have been killed or injured," he added.
"These groups have planted mines on some roads and streets, while roads connecting Darzab to the centre of Jawzjan have been closed," Sharifullah said. "Residents are unable to escape from the war zone in order to save their lives."