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Afghan Forces Claim Attack on IS Cells in Kabul

Damaged police vehicles are seen at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2019.

VOA’s Afghanistan Service contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency, released a new video showing its special forces attacking Islamic State sleeper cells in rural areas of Kabul Wednesday.

The agency also said it arrested this week a key member of the terror group accused of coordinating suicide attacks and managing suicide bombers in the capital.

The agency said in a statement that it acted on prior intelligence about three locations around the capital, killing two IS suicide bombers and seizing a large amount of explosives and ammunitions.

“We have killed two IS suicide bombers and seized heavy weaponry, suicide vests, explosives and materials used to improvise vehicular bombs,” the statement said.

At least two members of the Afghan security forces also died in the operation.

Afghan Forces Attack IS Hideouts in Kabul
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Abu Zar

Meanwhile, Afghan officials told VOA they had arrested a key member of the Islamic State terror group in Kabul.

Eid Mohammad, nicknamed Abu Zar, a resident of Kabul province, was arrested by security forces this week.

Abu Zar was responsible for coordinating suicide attacks in the capital and was involved in several recent terror attacks on the city.

Talking to reporters while in NDS custody, Abu Zar said he was trained at a madrassa in neighboring Pakistan and after the completion of his training joined IS in Afghanistan in eastern Nangarhar province, fighting Afghan security forces.

He also said that he, along with 14 other IS members, planned the 2017 terror attack on Imam Zaman Mosque in Kabul, killing at least 56 worshippers and injuring more than 50 others.

“We were 14 people who planned the attack and four of us were able to carry it out,” he told reporters.

Foreign IS members

Abu Zar also said he was tasked by the terror group to transport foreign IS fighters to eastern Nangarhar province, the traditional stronghold of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, where the group first emerged in the country in 2015. Fighters were trained in the province, he said and then taken to Kabul to carry out terror attacks.

“I would take foreign fighters and transfer them to Nangarhar and hand them over to somebody named Luqman. During one trip, he handed me over two people and told me to transfer them to Kabul and hand them over to someone named Jawid,” he said.

“Later Jawid told me that the two individuals were part of the group that carried out a terror attack against the Afghan Ministry of Communication,” he added.

About a dozen people were killed during the IS-claimed attack on the Afghan Ministry of Communications building in Kabul in April 2019.

Officials said at the time that a bomber blew himself up outside the ministry, paving the way for other attackers to enter the heavily guarded building. The ensuing firefight between the attackers and security forces lasted about five hours.

An injured man receives treatment inside an ambulance at a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2019.
An injured man receives treatment inside an ambulance at a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2019.

Increase in violence

The recent crackdown on IS comes amid an increase in violence in the city perpetrated by both Taliban and IS militants, officials said.

On Wednesday, a car bomb exploded outside a police station in Kabul, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 140. Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday, IS carried out a deadly bombing on a minibus carrying the employees of private television, Khorshid TV, in Afghanistan, officials said.

The blast killed two civilians passing by and injured three employees of the television station.

FILE - Members of the Taliban delegation are seen at the Sheraton Doha, before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue, in Doha, Qatar, July 7, 2019.
FILE - Members of the Taliban delegation are seen at the Sheraton Doha, before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue, in Doha, Qatar, July 7, 2019.

Peace talks

The increase in violence comes amid direct peace talks between the U.S. and Afghanistan, the latest round of which was wrapped up in Doha, Qatar, this week.

Led by Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. has been holding direct talks with the Taliban since mid-2018. There have been seven rounds of direct talks in an effort to reach a deal to end the war.

Both sides seem to have ironed out their differences for a deal to end the conflict in the country.

“My team & Taliban representatives will continue to discuss technical details as well as steps and mechanisms required for a successful implementation of the four-part agreement we’ve been working toward since my appointment. Agreement on these details is essential,” Khalilzad tweeted Monday.

Khalilzad, however, condemned the recent violence in Afghanistan.

“Indiscriminate attacks and intentional Injury to civilians are never warranted. We condemn the attack today in Kabul for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, and in which scores were killed and reportedly more than 145 injured, including many civilians,” Khalilzad said Wednesday.