Killing of ISIS-K mastermind in Peshawar undermines plans of ISIS central

By Zarak Khan

Policeman stand guard as mourners arrive to attend funeral prayers for bomb blast victims a day after a suicide attack in Peshawar on March 5. [Abdul Majeed/AFP]

Policeman stand guard as mourners arrive to attend funeral prayers for bomb blast victims a day after a suicide attack in Peshawar on March 5. [Abdul Majeed/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- The recent killing of a commander of the Khorasan branch of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS-K) has dealt a major blow to the group, say Pakistani authorities.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) on May 14 killed Hasan Shah, an ISIS-K commander, alongside a would-be-suicide bomber in an intelligence-based operation in the Pishtakhara area of Peshawar, according to CTD officials.

Shah, 28, masterminded a suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar in March that killed more than 64 worshippers and was operating an ISIS-K network, said a CTD official on the condition of anonymity.

Shah was profiled in a recent issue of Al-Naba, ISIS's central weekly newsletter, for his actions in the region, marking his relative importance in ISIS's organisation structure, said the official.

Shah was previously associated with proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) before joining ISIS-K, he added.

ISIS's top leadership formed its Khorasan chapter for Pakistan and Afghanistan in July 2014.

ISIS-K has a large number of former members of TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), another proscribed militant outfit, said Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based researcher who monitors militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Although many TTP militants have ended their affiliation with ISIS-K, a large number from Bajaur, Orakzai, and Peshawar districts and LeJ factions are still associated with the transnational terror group," Ahmed said.

There have been warnings Afghanistan could become a recruiting ground and staging post for militants since the fall of the Afghan government in August.

The would-be suicide bomber who was killed along with Shah was an Afghan national of Tajik ethnicity, according to CTD officials.

The suicide bomber responsible for the March attack in Peshawar was also an Afghan national in his 30s who had moved to Pakistan decades ago.

Crackdown underway

Pakistani authorities are conducting an ongoing crackdown on ISIS-K in the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, as part of an effort to stave off potential security threats following the collapse of the previous government in neighbouring Afghanistan in August last year.

On March 8, the KP's CTD killed three ISIS-K militants during an intelligence-based operation in the Jamrud area of Khyber district, a Pakistani district that borders the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Those killed were involved in a number of terror attacks, including the killing of two religious leaders, Sheikh Abdul Hameed and Qari Sheikh Muhammad, and a Sikh trader over the past two years, said police.

Pakistani authorities earlier on December 29 announced that law enforcement agencies had broken up five major ISIS-K groups in KP province in 2021.

The groups included three in the Peshawar region and two in the Bannu division, Javed Iqbal Wazir, a senior CTD official in Peshawar, said at that time.

In another operation in Mastung in September, security forces killed ISIS-K commander Mumtaz Ahmed, also known as Pehalwan, who masterminded a 2018 election rally bombing that killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds in the district.

The crackdown also comes amid recent attacks claimed by ISIS-K.

ISIS-K on May 15 claimed responsibility for the killing of two Sikh traders in Peshawar.

The two assailants were riding a motorcycle when they opened fire on the victims -- Kanwaljeet Singh, 42, and Ranjeet Singh, 38 -- who owned spice shops in the bazaar.

ISIS-K also claimed the killing of Mufti Bashir Muhammad Jan, a religious scholar affiliated with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl religious party, in Bajaur district’s Mamond area on April 26.

In March, ISIS-K also said it attacked a military convoy in Balochistan province’s Sibi district, killing seven military personnel.

In Pakistan, ISIS-K has sought to instigate sectarian strife by targeting Muslim minorities, such as Shia and Sufis.

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Why the Salaam Times makes us more worried by publication and highlighting ISIS’ activities? Don’t we have any other concern? Everybody knows that ISIS exists in Afghanistan and wants to destabilize the entire region, including Pakistan and Central Asian countries. So let it reach its goal, the world wouldn’t do anything. We expect the Salaam Times to publish more news other than ISIS. Salaam Times doesn’t publish any news about the war in Ukraine. It doesn’t report or mention the destructive economic activities of China, which are increasingly causing climate problems. It does not write about the activities of the Chinese government and tyrant Chinese companies in Afghanistan's mines. Instead of writing about ISIS’ activities, please publish other international news that has a much greater impact on Afghanistan than ISIS does. In the case of Afghanistan, your news are more concentrated on Herat and the northern provinces, and you do not cover the southern and Pashtun populated provinces at all. Please change your destructive policy.


It is good that Pakistan knows of the challenging activities of militants and fighters on its soil and understands that training terrorists, giving them sanctuaries and training, and then sending them to other countries for terrorist purposes is like breastfeeding a snake's babies. Over the past 20 years, the Afghan government has repeatedly complained to its international partners about the presence of terrorists on Pakistani soil. Still, despite knowing everything, the international community has not taken any serious action against Pakistan. As a result, the international community has irresponsibly handed over Afghanistan to Pakistan and the terrorist Taliban. They knew that with the end of the republic, the Taliban and other terrorists would come to power and that ISIS would intensify its activities, but it still did this. Why? Because there may be other games, especially to spread chaos inside Pakistan.


In my opinion, ISIS is in fact the intelligence of Afghanistan’s enemies. The enemies of Afghanistan can’t claim directly and say that we are going to explode a place today. Instead, they are doing it indirectly through ISIS. Now the Kulobies such as Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, have taken the role of spying for the enemies of Afghanistan and as their proxy soldiers they are carrying out terrorist attacks and explosions against Afghans and using ISIS name as a mask.


I am glad that the day has finally come as Pakistan feels threatened by the presence of insurgents on its soil. Until now, if security disturbances were carried out by various groups to disrupt Pakistan's security, it would all be just an allegory to show that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism. But the situation is a bit different now. The fire of jihad and religious fundamentalism which was ignited by Pakistan to destroy Afghanistan will now slowly inflame Pakistan itself. Pakistanis may experience the pain and suffering of Afghans who have been burning in the fire which kindled for half a century by Pakistan. I am sure that Pakistan will be surely devastated like Afghanistan, maybe not today, but tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or 10 years later. We ourselves have nothing to lose, but let Pakistan be destroyed, poor and needy like Afghanistan.