Afghanistan has alleged for the first time that the former leader of an outlawed Pakistani militant group, who is wanted in the United States and India, is overseeing attacks by Islamic State fighters in the war-torn country.
During a meeting between Afghan and Pakistani military officials in Kabul Tuesday, Afghan officials said “currently former leader of Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), Hafiz Saeed, is managing activities” of IS in Afghanistan, according to an Afghan defense ministry statement.
Saeed is the founder of LeT and is wanted in India for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks on its soil, including the 2008 Mumbai raids that killed 166 people. The United States has a $10 million bounty for information leading to Saeed's arrest and says he has ties to al-Qaida. Pakistani authorities and the Islamist cleric have rejected the U.S. and Indian allegations against him as unfounded. Pakistan has not yet responded to the Afghan allegations implicating Saeed in IS terrorist attacks.
Saeed currently lives in Lahore in a fortified compound. Pakistani authorities have refused to detain him over his alleged terrorist ties.
The Afghan defense ministry's assertions about Saeed created confusion all day Wednesday in Pakistan, as reporters and Pakistani officials tried to determine whether Afghan officials were confusing the internationally-wanted militant leader with an IS commander who shares his same name. The head of Islamic State's local branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan,Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), is also named Hafiz Saeed Khan. He is not believed to be related to the LeT leader.
The IS militant commander is a former member of the Pakistani Taliban and reports of his death in U.S. drone strikes have regularly appeared in Afghan and regional media.
The Afghan allegations came during a high-level military meeting in Kabul Tuesday with their Pakistani counterparts, as well as NATO commanders, to discuss border security.
The Afghan side called on Islamabad to prevent IS terrorists from entering Afghanistan and harming its people, it said.
The trilateral discussions were convened to discuss issues related to border security and mutual concerns stemming from Pakistani construction activities along their 2,600 kilometer shared porous border, called the Durand Line.
"The Afghan DGMO (Director General Military Operations) shared details of the measures being taken by the Afghan government to crush Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) and called for the Pakistan army to take similar actions against Daesh,” the statement asserted.
The statement also expressed "serious concerns of Pakistani forces'" for allegedly carrying out construction and firing artillery along Afghan border areas without consulting the Afghan government.
Islamic State militants have stepped up their attacks in Afghanistan. On Saturday, three suicide bombers struck a civilian protest rally in Kabul, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 230 others, the worst such bombing in Kabul since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
A website linked to IS claimed responsibility for the assault against a rally of ethnic Shi'ite Hazara community, saying it was aimed at punishing them for sending fighters to Syria to fight along side government forces battling the terror group.