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US lists Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan Province’ as terror group

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(Last Updated On: January 16, 2016)

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The United States formally designated the Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a terrorist organization on Thursday.

The State Department, in a statement, said the order concerned the Islamic State group s “Khorasan Province” — which US officials refer to as “ISIL-K.”

“The group is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban,” it said.

According to the statement, the group pledged allegiance to the head of the Islamic State s self-proclaimed “caliphate”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in January 2015.

Al-Baghdadi s jihadist group controls the IS heartland in Iraq and Syria, but affiliated movements have sprung up in Libya, Yemen, Sinai and the Afghan borderlands.

“ISIL-K has carried out suicide bombings, small arms attacks and kidnappings in eastern Afghanistan against civilians and Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, and claimed responsibility for May 2015 attacks on civilians in Karachi, Pakistan,” the statement said.

Under US law, once a group is designated as a foreign terrorist organization, suspects can be prosecuted for attempting to provide it with funding or support.

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Khalilzad meets with Taliban’s Baradar, discusses increase in violence

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha on Wednesday night to discuss a range of issues relating to the Afghan peace process, including the high levels of violence. 

In a series of tweets by the Taliban’s Doha spokesman, Mohammad Naeem, Khalilzad was accompanied by US Forces Afghanistan commander General Scott Miller.

Naeem said the discussion centered around a number of issues and talks were held on the full “implementation of the whole articles of the agreement signed between the IEA [Taliban] and the US”.

He also said the release of remaining prisoners was discussed as was removing names of Taliban members from the US’ blacklist. 

According to him, the increase in hostilities was discussed and attributed the high levels of violence to a number of factors. He said the “humiliation of the martyrs’ bodies” was one reason, as was that of raids carried out against released prisoners and “their killing”. 

He also said, “offensives and the violation of the agreement overall were reckoned the causes that don’t lead the circumstances to a good direction.”

Khalilzad returned to Doha earlier this week to meet with negotiating teams in Doha to press both sides to immediately reduce the levels of violence that Afghan civilians are forced to bear. 

According to a statement issued on Wednesday by the US State Department: “Too many Afghans are dying. The sides urgently need an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.” 

“Along with international partners, Ambassador Khalilzad will press the two negotiating teams to accelerate their efforts and agree to a political roadmap that ends Afghanistan’s 40-year-long war. The sides must move past procedure and into substantive negotiations. American and international assistance remains available to all sides,” the statement read. 

Khalilzad meanwhile said in a series of tweets on Tuesday night that he returns “to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened.”

“The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said.

“Intransigence and a refusal to abandon animosity, embrace fellow citizens, and agree on a formula for political cooperation/competition underpin the ongoing war.”

Khalilzad said: “Afghans are dying at a high rate, and regional spoilers are using Afghans as cannon fodder for their illegitimate objectives.  Bloodshed must end.

“Afghans need to pivot to development instead of destruction, stability instead of chaos, forgiveness instead of vengeance, compromise instead of inflexibility,” he said.

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UN official warns al-Qaeda still ‘heavily embedded’ with Taliban 

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

A UN official has said despite the Taliban’s pledge in February to cut ties with al-Qaeda, the group is still “heavily embedded” within the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Speaking to the BBC, Edmund Fitton-Brown, co-ordinator of the UN’s Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, said there has been regular communication between the two groups despite the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February. 

“The Taliban were talking regularly and at a high level with al-Qaeda and reassuring them that they would honor their historic ties,” Fitton-Brown said.

According to him, the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban was “not substantively” changed by the deal struck with the US. 

“Al-Qaeda are heavily embedded with the Taliban and they do a good deal of military action and training action with the Taliban, and that has not changed,” he said.

BBC reported that although al-Qaeda’s strength and ability to strike the West has significantly diminished over the past decade, its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to still be based in Afghanistan along with a number of other senior figures in the group. 

But, Fitton-Brown said despite its lower profile, al-Qaeda remained “resilient” and “dangerous”.

Fitton-Brown also told the BBC that he had noted recent reports about the Taliban requiring some Pakistani foreign fighters in Afghanistan to register with them and abide by a code of conduct forbidding attacks outside Afghanistan. 

He said it was not yet clear whether that agreement applied to al-Qaeda, nor whether it was an “irrevocable” move toward preventing foreign militants posing a threat internationally from Afghanistan.

BBC stated US officials have been vague when questioned as to whether or not they believe the Taliban is fully complying with its commitments on al-Qaeda, and instead have often suggested the information is classified. 

Ambassador Nathan Sales, co-ordinator for counterterrorism at the US state department, told the BBC: “We expect the Taliban to honor the commitments that they made… to end all connections with terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. We intend to continue monitoring the situation very closely to ensure actions are matching words.”

Speaking to the BBC, Rahmatullah Andar, a former Taliban commander and now spokesman for the Afghan government’s National Security Council warned of the threat of a resurgence from al-Qaeda and other global militant groups. “The Americans might think the agreement they have signed with the Taliban will sort everything out,” he said. “But time will prove that’s not the case.”

Fitton-Brown also warned that were the peace process, currently underway in Doha, fall apart, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (Daesh) could attempt to further exploit “ungoverned space” in Afghanistan.

“Both of those groups have an avowed aspiration to pose an international threat,” he said.

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8 killed in Herat prison riot, officials confirm

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

At least eight prisoners were killed in a prison riot on Wednesday night in Herat Central Prison, local officials said Thursday.

Herat Public Health officials confirmed the deaths, and said 12 others including four prison guards were wounded.

However, the head of Herat ambulance services Ibrahim Mohammadi said early Thursday morning that one police soldier and one prisoner had died and 18 wounded had been taken to hospital.

Further details around the prison riot have not been provided but unconfirmed reports indicate a fight broke out while police were trying to close illegal shops inside the prison – which sparked an angry response from prisoners.

Reports also indicate a part of the prison had been set on fire.

The prison is situated in the heart of Herat city, and for residents in the close vicinity the situation had been a major concern as gunshots rang out through much of the night.

But reports indicate clashes lasted a few hours until the situation was eventually brought under control at about midnight.

Neither police nor prison officials have yet provided further details.

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