Fresh fighting between the Islamic State (IS) terror group and Taliban insurgents has displaced hundreds of people in an eastern Afghan province.
More than 200 families fled their homes in the Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province as the two warring parties engaged in fierce fighting, local officials said.
Ahmad Ali Hazrat, head of the Nangarhar provincial council, told Radio Liberty the clashes took place in areas under the influence of Taliban. He added that many locals fled their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire between the militant groups.
Some villagers, who view IS as an outside force, have supported Taliban militants to battle the IS fighters in the district and counter the terror group’s frequent attacks on their villages.
This is not the first time local residents have been displaced by clashes between the two groups. Civilians have borne the brunt of the rivalry between IS and the Taliban in the district.
More than 2,000 families were displaced and at least eight civilians were killed in October when IS and Taliban fighters clashed for several days in the Waziro Tangi region of the Khogyani district, according to provincial authorities.
The Waziro Tangi Valley is considered an important economic corridor used by militants for smuggling of Afghan mineral supplies to neighboring Pakistan.
An anti-corruption watchdog in Afghanistan earlier this year said militant groups received at least $46 million from minerals and precious stones illegally exported last year from Nangarhar province to Pakistan.
Afghanistan has some of the world's richest mineral resources, including extensive deposits of copper, iron, gemstones and precious metals.
Since its emergence in early 2015 in the southern districts of Nangarhar, the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, also known as IS-Khorasan, has engaged in frequent clashes with Taliban fighters for control of districts and villages in the province.
Besides battling with Taliban militants, IS fighters have repeatedly targeted local villages in Nangarhar. The group has destroyed homes, torched markets and barred children from attending school in areas under its control.
The group has also claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks in major Afghan cities, including attacks on mosques and worshipers.
The IS terror group had reportedly planned to establish a “caliphate” in Afghanistan, according to General John Nicholson, commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He recently told VOA, “They declared that Jalalabad would be the capital and they would take over Nangarhar; they have failed.”
Afghan and U.S. forces say they conduct joint operations against IS militants in the country, and Afghan special forces, backed by U.S. ground and airpower, have cleared many areas of IS militants in Nangarhar.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor, on Saturday told reporters at least 16 IS fighters, including two commanders, were killed in an airstrike in the Achin district, the group’s stronghold.
Radio Liberty’s Baaz Mohammad Abid contributed to this report from Nangarhar.