Fierce clashes have reportedly erupted between Taliban and Islamic State (IS) fighters in eastern Afghanistan, leaving dozens of people dead on both sides.
Afghan police reported Tuesday the fighting in the remote Batikot and Chaparhar districts of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, began after hundreds of Taliban insurgents mounted a big attack on IS bases earlier this week.
The Taliban offensive is said to have captured the two districts but attempts to dislodge the rival group from the nearby Nazyan district, which is considered the IS stronghold in Afghanistan, could not succeed.
Separately, the provincial governor’s office told media that security forces ambushed and killed at least 15 IS fighters near the conflict zone late on Monday.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to VOA that clashes have taken place and claimed Taliban fighters ousted IS militants from the two districts. Mujahid did not give further details.
The Taliban apparently considers IS a threat to its ongoing violence campaign against the NATO-backed Afghan government.
The Islamist insurgency initiated attacks against IS militants from southern Zabul and western Farah provinces in November and succeeded in dislodging them from the area, a development acknowledged by local Afghan officials.
IS, which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq, has recently established bases in parts of Nangarhar before attempting to extend influence to other parts of the war-ravaged country.
Afghan authorities insist most of the IS fighters are Pakistani nationals hailing from areas such as Orakzai, Khyber and Bajaur, three of the seven semiautonomous tribal districts of Pakistan lining the border with Afghanistan.
IS has recently launched its propaganda FM radio station from an unknown location in Nangarhar to encourage Afghan youth to join the group.
Afghan authorities recently claimed to have jammed the broadcast but residents and local media say the transmission is continuing uninterrupted, encouraging the public to join the IS fight against the Kabul government, its NATO allies and the Taliban.
Meanwhile, local media in Pakistan has also quoted officials as confirming the Taliban assault on IS militants in the Afghan border areas, saying the hostilities killed more than 150 militants, mostly Islamic State supporters and commanders.
Pakistan has been conducting counterterrorism army operations on its side of the volatile border and officials have acknowledged some insurgents have fled to Afghanistan.
Pakistani authorities have also stepped up a crackdown on suspected IS hideouts in major cities, rounding up dozens of militants linked to the Middle Eastern terror group.
Rana Sanaullah, law minister of the country’s populous Punjab province, revealed on Monday as many as 100 suspected extremists have left Pakistan for Syria to take part in the conflict there.
The revelation contradicted repeated claims by the federal authorities that IS has “no organized presence in Pakistan.”