Dozens of Islamic State fighters have been arrested in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, ahead of a religious observance in the country, Afghan officials said Tuesday.
Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country's main intelligence agency, said in a statement Tuesday that its special operations forces arrested 26 IS fighters in different parts of Kabul.
"The group of fighters, led by Abdullah, was brought to Kabul to launch suicide attacks during the month of Muharram and on the day of Ashura (The death anniversary of Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussain)," the statement said.
"Afghan security forces identified and arrested the ferocious terrorists, and thwarted their lethal plans," the statement added.
In a video released by NDS, the IS fighters confessed they were members of the terror group and were planning to wage attacks in the city.
The arrests are part of a larger security plan put in place by the Afghan government to be proactive and better protect Shi'ite religious minorities against potential IS attacks during Muharram.
September 20 coincides with the 10th of the month of Muharram on the Islamic calendar, when Muslims around the world mourn Hussain's death.
The government is relying on hundreds of civilians it armed last year to protect Shi'ite mosques in the city.
WATCH: Shi'ite Civilians Armed to Protect Mosques
Najib Danish, a spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Interior, told VOA that more than 500 armed civilians are providing security for more than 100 mosques in the capital.
"Our focus is more on vulnerable areas. Our intelligence agencies are more active and strengthened. A joint security plan is already in place to provide security during the 10 days of Muharram," Danish said.
Ishaq, who is armed by the Afghan government to protect his local mosque against IS threat, told VOA that IS militants are killing people indiscriminately. Ishaq, like many other Afghans, uses a single name.
'Protecting my people'
"The group [IS] has no mercy at all. They kill children, athletes, students and journalists. I have armed myself to protect my people," Ishaq said.
Over the last few months, IS has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks in Kabul, killing and injuring dozens of civilians.
On Sept. 5, a twin bomb blast at a wrestling club in Dasht-e-Barche, a mainly Shi'ite populated area west of Kabul, killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 60 others.
Last month, IS claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on an educational center in the same area, which killed 48 people and injured 67.
The majority of the victims were students under the age of 20.
IS's Khorasan branch has been carrying out deadly terror attacks in various parts of Afghanistan for several years. The group first emerged in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province in 2015, and since then has made inroads into other eastern provinces and parts of the north.
Analysts charge that by targeting the Shi'ite minority in Afghanistan, IS is trying to instigate sectarian violence in the country.