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IS Launches First Major Attack on Afghan Forces


FILE - An Afghan National Army soldier stands guard in Camp Khogyani in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, a region where homegrown militants loyal to the Islamic State group have made some inroads, Aug. 5, 2015.

Authorities in eastern Afghanistan said hundreds of Islamic State militants staged a coordinated pre-dawn attack Sunday against key security outposts in a remote border region.

The officials say it was the first major attack by the extremists against Afghan forces, coming after months of reports that Islamic State is becoming more and more powerful in Afghanistan.

The attacks took place in the mountainous Achin district of Nangarhar province, on the Pakistan border. Reports say 85 militants and three Afghan policemen were killed. Achin governor Haji Ghalib Mujahid tells VOA in Islamabad that most of the heavily armed militants were Pakistani nationals.

He said fighting still continues in some areas, but that Afghan forces have retaken control of security posts Islamic State seized and forced the extremists to retreat.

Also Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a volleyball game in Paktika province, killing at least nine and wounding about 50. No one has claimed responsibility.

Increased activity by Islamic State, especially in Nangarhar province where it has been fighting with the Taliban, has put more pressure on Afghan security forces to control the extremists.

There are worries in Afghanistan that a leadership dispute among the Taliban could lead to more defections to Islamic State, strengthening its ranks in Afghanistan.

The United States says it is concerned about Islamic State efforts to try to establish a stronghold in Afghanistan. β€œIt is unpredictable as yet how it might evolve. It is something that we are taking seriously,” a senior State Department official said last week.

Kenneth Schwartz contributed to this report from Washington.