Islamic State militants who say they are based in Afghanistan have in recent days promoted their alleged successes in the country. And on Wednesday they issued a call for Muslims to “take up arms” against Jews and Christians and “fight them in whatever way we can.”
The message in the Pashto language was the third time in less than a week that IS has highlighted its activities in Afghanistan on its website. In recent days, U.S. and Afghan officials have warned of an increased IS presence in Afghanistan and of its threat to Central Asia.
Calling itself the “Islamic State in Khorasan Province,” the group’s overture to Muslims was particularly aimed at Palestinians.
“You are those people who have always experienced the worst sufferings by the hands of Jews and Christians,” said a man on the video who was covered in black garb and held a sword while standing in front of what appeared to be several fighters.
The call comes a day after IS released a series of gruesome photos on its website that militants say were taken in Afghanistan and show several bodies of men dressed in Afghan military garb who were allegedly killed in battles with IS.
According to IS, the photos are from the scene of armed clashes between the militants and government security forces in the Kot district of Nangarhar province.
The photos also show a Humvee captured by IS fighters and several bodies of Afghan soldiers.
There was no confirmation from the Afghan government of the authenticity of the photos or that a battle had taken place between IS militants and Afghan troops.
IS last week posted other photos which allegedly show IS forces training fighters.
In recent months, there has been an uptick of IS insurgency in Afghanistan, especially in eastern Nangarhar province where IS fighters have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security checkpoints.
IS has reportedly recruited young soldiers and forced marriages on young women and girls in the areas it controls in Afghanistan.
There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 IS militants in the country, according to intelligence reports.
Afghanistan national security advisor, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, told the Associated Press last week that IS is posing a serious threat to Afghanistan and could make the country a safe haven for terrorists again.
“They have not been degraded, they have regenerated themselves, ”Atmar said, referring to al-Qaida, IS and Taliban fighters.
The commander of the NATO Forces in Afghanistan, General John F. Campbell, told U.S. senators earlier this month that IS wants to turn Nangarhar into its operational headquarters.
According to Campbell, some Taliban members also recruit for IS in order to get financial support from the group.
On Wednesday, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying IS militants based in Afghanistan pose a growing risk to Central Asia.
"The escalation of tension in Afghanistan is a source of serious concern," said Bortnikov. "Numerous militant groups that are part of the Taliban are concentrated on the northern borders of that country."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling beginning this week to all five central Asian republics where U.S. officials say security issues are expected to be a main topic of discussion.
Some information for this report from Reuters.