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Afghan Forces, IS Militants Locked in Fierce Battle

Fierce fighting has erupted in eastern Afghanistan after militants linked to Islamic State staged coordinated overnight attacks on Afghan security forces’ outposts and civilian areas, officials said Friday.

The clashes in the district of Kot in Nangahar province continued into the morning, leaving at least 30 IS militants dead and several others wounded, provincial government spokesman Attahullah Khogyani told VOA.

He confirmed three civilians, including two women, were also killed while 12 more were wounded.

Residents in the area say Afghan forces have also suffered casualties but officials have not yet responded to these claims.

The IS attack in Kot is the first major operation the militant outfit has undertaken outside neighboring Achin district, which is believed to have turned into a main regional base for the Middle Eastern terrorist organization.

The Afghan province borders Pakistan and officials say many IS fighters are former members of the extremist Pakistani Taliban, which is waging a deadly insurgency against the neighboring country.

The Afghan air force, with the help of U.S. drones, has conducted frequent strikes against IS bases in the province and officials claim to have degraded the group’s ability to expand influence to other parts of Afghanistan.

The militant group has also been challenged by Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency and deadly clashes between the two have left dozens of fighters dead on both sides, though Taliban insurgents downplay its losses and the strength of IS in Afghanistan.