KABUL -- Clashes between the Taliban and "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Jawzjan Province have caused hundreds of casualties in both militant groups, according to local and army officials.
"The fighting between the Taliban and ISIS has been going on in Darzab District of Jawzjan Province for the past 10 days," Maj. Mohammad Hanif Rezayee, a spokesperson for the Afghan National Army (ANA), told Salaam Times July 22.
"According to our information, so far, more than 300 fighters have been killed and/or injured from both sides," he said.
"On July 17, during the fight between the Taliban and the ISIS in Bibi Maryam and Sardara villages, 70 Taliban fighters were killed and 60 others were wounded," he said. "Meanwhile, 50 ISIS fighters were killed and more than 40 others were wounded."
Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, a spokesperson for Jawzjan's governor, confirmed Rezayee's account.
"On [July 20], in a recent clash between ISIS and the Taliban in the Aq Balaq area of Darzab District, and also because of a land mine planted by ISIS in this area, 15 Taliban members were killed and four others were wounded, while five ISIS fighters were killed or injured," he told Salaam Times.
"During these clashes, the Taliban captured several ISIS bases in Bibi Maryam and Sardara villages," he said.
"On [July 17], ISIS militants beheaded Mullah Burjan, a Taliban commander, and one of his men, in [ISIS-held] areas," Ghafoori said.
"Hundreds of families have been forced to leave their homes in Darzab District because of the conflict between ISIS and the Taliban," he said.
Caught in the cross-hairs
Meanwhile, in a spillover clash in Sar-e-Pul Province, ISIS militants stormed the house of a Taliban commander.
"Two ISIS militants carried out an attack on the house of ... Sher Mohammad Ghazanfar, the Taliban shadow governor of Sayad District in Sar-e-Pul Province," Zabiullah Amani, a spokesman for the Sar-e-Pul governor, told Salaam Times.
The ISIS gunmen killed 15 Taliban fighters, including Nur Mohammad, Ghazanfar's brother, he said.
"The attack took place on July 17 in Ajrin village, Sayad District," said Amani. "A memorial ceremony was taking place in Sher Mohammad Ghazanfar's house to mourn Ghazanfar's other brother, who was another Taliban commander in Jawzjan Province and had been killed there," Amani said.
"The ISIS fighters escaped," he added.
In another clash between the two groups, Taliban fighters gang raped and then killed several ISIS women.
"The Taliban recently captured three female ISIS members who were citizens of Uzbekistan and Chechnya [in Russia]," Rezayee said. "On July 13, the Taliban shot the women after gang raping them in a field in Darzab District, where their corpses were left for several days."
Ghafoori confirmed Rezayee's account.
"The Taliban and ISIS have differences of opinion," Ghafoori said, explaining that the Taliban seeks to uphold its "emirate" while ISIS hopes to expand its so-called "caliphate".
"Hence, each side is trying to destroy the other in Jawzjan, so that it can have exclusive power," he said.
"ISIS and the Taliban have ideological and cultural conflicts and differences," said Daoud Rawash, a Kabul University professor.
"Among the biggest reasons for which the two extremist groups are fighting is the fight for power between the 'caliphate' and the 'emirate'," he told Salaam Times.
"ISIS emphasises the formation of an Islamic caliphate and does not recognise the [Taliban's] emirate," he said.
"Taliban leaders, on the other hand, cannot stand the existence of a parallel power by the name of 'caliphate' in areas under their control," said Rawash.
ISIS under fire
Afghan government forces are taking advantage of the fighting and continuing their efforts against ISIS.
"Our forces in Jawzjan Province have dealt heavy blows to ISIS," Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the Defence Ministry, told Salaam Times.
"Over the past year, a large number of ISIS fighters, including their group commanders, have been eliminated in air and ground attacks by Afghan security forces and forces from the [NATO] Resolute Support Mission."
Disheartened ISIS members have been surrendering in Jawzjan.
"[On July 22] in Qush Tepa District, Jawzjan Province, 11 ISIS militants surrendered to the security forces after realising the truth and regretting their past activities," Radmanesh said.
Another 23 ISIS members surrendered in Darzab District Wednesday (July 25), Khaama Press reported, quoting the ANA.