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Civilians Caught in Taliban, IS Crossfire in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province

FILE - Taliban fighters carry weapons in an undisclosed location in Nangarhar province.
FILE - Taliban fighters carry weapons in an undisclosed location in Nangarhar province.

As fighting between the Islamic State militant group and Taliban insurgents continues in eastern Afghanistan, civilians are bearing the brunt of the rivalry between the two warring parties.

At least four civilians who were caught in crossfire have died in fresh fighting between the Taliban and IS fighters in the Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province, local officials told VOA.

"IS militants killed four civilians and wounded two others," Nangarhar government spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani told VOA.

The fighting in Khogyani district, which continues for a second day, also left several dead from both warring sides.

"Six IS fighters and three Taliban militants have been killed, and another three Taliban wounded in the fighting," spokesperson Khogyani said.

Local residents have joined forces with the Taliban to battle the IS fighters in the district, provincial officials told VOA.

This is not the first time that locals have supported Taliban militants against IS. Frequent IS threats have forced some villagers to join forces with local Taliban to counter IS attacks on their villages. In a similar move last spring, local residents supported Taliban militants to repel an IS attack in the Tora Bora area, where Osama bin Laden once took refuge before he managed to cross into neighboring Pakistan, according to local tribesmen.

The majority of Afghans views IS as an outside force, which has repeatedly targeted local villagers, destroyed homes and markets, and barred children from attending school in areas under its control. IS atrocities have forced thousands of families in several districts to flee their homes.

IS and the Taliban have engaged in frequent clashes in Nangarhar and some areas in northern Jouzjan province, where local IS affiliates are attempting to establish a footprint.

Fierce clashes between the two groups in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar earlier this year left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to provincial officials.

In Jouzjan, where some claim to have joined the IS cause, local militants frequently fight for control of districts and villages in the province. Recent clashes in the Qoshtepa district have resulted in the death of at least a dozen militants from both sides, according to Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, a spokesperson for the Jouzjan governor.

Based in southern parts of Nangarhar, IS's self-styled Khorasan Province branch (ISIS-K) emerged in early 2015 in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The terror group has been active in several Nangarhar districts and has frequently targeted villages and government check posts. It has also claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks in major cities in the country.