Security

Jawzjan residents concerned about heightened ISIS presence

By Muhammad Qasem

An ISIS fighter poses in front of the group's flag as part of its claim of a recent attack on Tajikistan. [File]

An ISIS fighter poses in front of the group's flag as part of its claim of a recent attack on Tajikistan. [File]

KUNDUZ -- Militants loyal to the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) have raised the ISIS flag in Darzab district, Jawzjan province, for the third time in eight months, local officials say.

The trend has raised major concern among residents.

ISIS fighters have launched operations in Darzab, Khamyab, Aqcha and Mingajik districts over the past several months and are now focusing on establishing more bases in other parts of the province, Jawzjan residents say.

"Based on my sources, ISIS was able to raise its black flag on May 20 for a day in Darzab district and asked local people to declare their allegiance to the group," said Fazel Haq Jawzjani, a local civil society activist.

Darzab district was a stronghold of ISIS in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and ISIS elements are trying to regain control of territory, he said.

If the international community fails to support efforts to dismantle terrorist bases in Afghanistan, Afghan people will yet again confront a major catastrophe, he warned.

"ISIS militants urge locals to join the group despite knowing that locals have awful memories of ISIS's past activities in the province," he added.

"ISIS raised its flag twice on October 17 on a local fort and the headquarters of a local command, Aaq Mohammad, in Aqcha district," Jawzjani said.

ISIS's local Khorasan branch (ISIS-K) has claimed responsibility for several recent rocket attacks and bombings in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

It has also bombed mosques, schools and mini-buses in Kabul and other parts of the country.

In the most recent claim, ISIS said on Telegram on May 7 that it had fired seven missiles at a Tajik military base across the border from Khwaja Ghar, Takhar province.

ISIS brutality

ISIS has carried out ruthless crimes in Darzab district, including killing former government employees, forcing young girls to marry its members and forcing teenage boys to join its ranks, local residents say.

"ISIS has committed the most brutal crimes over the past three years, may Allah punish them severely," said Shafiullah, 56, a resident of Darzab district.

ISIS has committed crimes in Sardara, Mughal and Alqani villages of Darzab district, he said.

"On May 1, 2018, four ISIS militants abducted a 19-year-old girl who was engaged from her house in Mughal village, Darzab district, and took her to their nearby headquarters, where she was raped by all members of the group and kept for sex slavery for almost four weeks," he said.

"The crimes committed by ISIS in this area are far more extensive and worse than what the group has done in Syria and Iraq," he said.

ISIS militants have burned down dozens of schools in Darzab district, depriving more than 20,000 girls and boys of education, Shafiullah said.

In 2019, ISIS fighters raised their flag in Aqcha and Mingajik districts and violently tortured local residents, said Allah Nazar Mohammadi, a resident of Jawzjan.

"In addition to killing children, ISIS militants have been involved in many criminal activities, including looting public properties, sexually assaulting and harassing residents, and setting fire to dozens of school buildings," he said.

"Their actions were definitely against the law and values of humanity. They forced the closure of local schools, demolished school buildings and dug trenches in civilian homes," he added.

"We, the people of Jawzjan, are extremely concerned about the return of ISIS," Mohammadi said.

Looming threats

Many Afghans have expressed grave concerns about the resurgence of ISIS and its mounting threats across the country.

Terrorist groups have always used religion as a tool in Afghanistan and have taken the lives of many innocent civilians under the false pretence of Islam, said Mohammad Amin Tawhidi, a second-year student at Balkh University.

"By launching terrorist attacks in mosques and other places of worship, ISIS aims to divide Muslims," he said. "In doing so, it wants to create fear and disbelief to stir up ethnic tensions among Afghans."

"ISIS has become an obvious enemy of the Afghan people and is openly challenging Afghanistan's national security," he said.

ISIS has shifted its focus from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan because of the security vacuum in the country, Waisuddin Askar, a political analyst based in Mazar-e-Sharif, said.

ISIS threats are increasing at a time when Afghanistan does not have the intelligence and military capabilities needed to confront the challenge, he said.

"ISIS is very well trained tactically and operationally," he said. "Afghanistan must build a well-equipped and professional force to combat growing ISIS threats."

"The entire region will become unstable and insecure unless the group is eliminated at once," he said.

"The international community must pay attention to the situation in Afghanistan," he added. "The stronger ISIS gets in Afghanistan, the larger threats it can pose to challenge security around the world."

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ISIS has grown stronger under the Taliban rule because many people are dissatisfied with the Taliban's behavior and policies. If public dissatisfaction with the Taliban continues, ISIS and other terrorist groups will use it. Some time ago, US officials said that they were monitoring the activities of ISIS in Afghanistan. If ISIS reaches the point where it is a threat to the United States and its allies, then Washington has the potential to target the group from a distance. Still, when the United States takes action, the fires of war in Afghanistan will be so intense that it will take years to end it, in which case innocent Afghans will be sacrificed and killed. Their homeland will be destroyed, so the ruling party (Taliban) should take action.

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ISIS is a major threat for Afghanistan and for the Taliban. There is a cultural and intellectual context of recruiting for this group. Therefore, they will not face any problem to expand the scope of their activities. Meanwhile, a political system and government have just collapsed, the humanitarian and economic crisis has taken its toll from the people, and there has been an incredible rupture in people’s life. Experiences have proved that wherever the system and the regimes are collapsed, the role of insurgent groups has become more and more prominent. If the failure of the previous political system is considered an opportunity and victory for the Taliban, it is also an opportunity and an activity field for the ISIS because in the previous government, the ISIS was suppressing in many grounds, and if there wasn’t the presence and increase of the Taliban war, ISIS would have had less opportunity to maneuver. The group's fighters were also targeted by army’s fighter jets everywhere in Afghanistan and they had little opportunity to maneuver. Currently, poverty and hunger are considered to be the main reasons for strengthening the lines of ISIS. People sell their children and organs because of hunger. In a situation like this, there is a ground for such people to join the ranks of the terrorist groups in order to earn money. Anadolu News Agency recently quoted a resident of Kunar province saying that ISIS was taking advantage of the widespread poverty by providing cash distributi

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Day by day, we are moving towards sadness and frustration. No good news, desperateness, tiredness, or mental diseases exist. Reading this news made me even more sad and frustrated. All in all, Afghans are meant to be killed. No one takes pity on them. If we cry out, for God's sake, leave us anymore, no one will leave us. In one way or another, they make excuses to kill us. The fires of the Afghan genocide have not cooled for fifty years. The same rubbish is poured every day, and the flames become stronger. ISIS and every other evil may not try on the people of Afghanistan to become Muslim at a time as more than 99% of our people are Muslims. Neither convert nor kill in the name of religion. If they are Muslims and do not incite religious wars, they should go to a place where there is infidelity, and their people worship cows and idols instead of Islam or have no book at all. In other words, bombings took place in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul on Wednesday (May 24), and the Khurasan branch of the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility. The Taliban say five people were killed in Kabul and nine in Mazar-e-Sharif, but other media outlets reported that the death toll was several times higher. ISIS's Khurasan branch has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, posing a significant security threat to the Taliban government. The Taliban must stop such attacks; otherwise, ordinary Afghans will be killed, but the Taliban officials and soldiers will also be killed. Therefore, the securi

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As I know, we (Afghanistan) need to sign security agreements with international powers to support us when needed. We need to make deals with the United States, NATO and other big bodies in order to have their support in case if we are attacked by mother of terrorists (Pakistan) and Iran. The treaties can cover training our security and defense forces. This world is a world of means and every country needs support of the other. I don't care who governs the country, but in general our country (Afghanistan) needs to make and sign deals with big powers especially America.

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This article made me frustrated and sad about the future, so I didn't like it. Afghans appear to be on the verge of being killed by religious extremists, and Afghanistan is a hotbed of insurgency and wildness. It has been half a century since religious merchants set Afghanistan on fire, and this fire is still fresh and burning after half a century. I have visited other parts of the world, but nowhere have I seen Muslims who adhere to Islam and faith as the Afghans do. Despite all this, Afghans have not been able to convince religious businessmen that they are Muslims and that they are better adherents of Islam than anyone else. Instead of converting Afghans to Islam and taking allegiance from them, ISIS should go to Israel and liberate Palestine.

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ISIS is a project of the West. I watched a video of an American journalist and researcher on Twitter three years ago. He has said that ISIS is a project of America and Israel. It doesn't matter who the project is; what matters is that such beasts destroyed the Afghans, and the beasts ruined Afghanistan. Most of such projects are implemented by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, created by Britons.

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I don’t know what do the ISIS and other terrorist groups want from the Afghans? For years, the afghans have been killed by different groups at different times. One group says you are not a good Muslim, you must become a Muslim, another group fights for twenty years, kills thousands of people, destroys bridges, culverts, schools and all infrastructures, and when it gains the power, another group stands up and says, "no, your jihad was not enough." You should become better Muslim than this, and now they have started killing the Muslim people of Afghanistan. While these acts are against the principles of the venerable religion of Islam, their continuation in the name of God and the religion of Islam in principle make people disgusted with the religion of Islam and incites them against religious rites. Therefore, it is necessary for the Muslim people of Afghanistan, especially the religious scholars, to stand together against this group and not let the murders in the name of religion and God.

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