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IS Radio Expands Reach in Afghanistan

FILE - An Afghan shopkeeper, right, listens to Islamic State radio at his shop in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Jan. 10, 2016.
FILE - An Afghan shopkeeper, right, listens to Islamic State radio at his shop in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Jan. 10, 2016.

The Islamic State group in Afghanistan has added new programming to its radio broadcasts that the Afghan government has failed to take off the air.

The IS-run FM station “Voice of the Caliphate,” which broadcasts from a remote mobile transmitter on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, this week added Dari broadcasts to its lineup.

Now it airs programs in Pashto and Dari, the two official languages of Afghanistan.

“Voice of the Caliphate” was launched last year and has been airing a message of terror in a region where IS fighters are active.

The broadcasts reach Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, as well as nearby districts bordering Pakistan.

The station has attracted a large audience in Jalalabad. Local residents say its broadcasts are different from others.

“I have been listening to this radio for the last three months. It airs Quranic verses and sayings of the Holy Prophet,” said Ahmadullah, 14, who joins a daily gathering of locals who listen to the IS radio.

The broadcasts, which run from 7 to 9 p.m. daily, also include anti-government and anti-Taliban propaganda, invitations to join IS, threats against government employees, interviews with IS fighters, and religious chanting in Arabic, Pashto and Dari.

“I have seen a few people who — I don’t know if they were joking or serious — who said if the radio keeps broadcasting, they would join IS,” Abdul Rahman, a civil society activist in Jalalabad, told VOA.

'They keep moving'

At first, Afghan officials said they would shut down the IS broadcasts and claimed success. However, the provincial government now admits it has failed to hunt down the IS broadcasters.

“They keep moving from one area to another. They are not staying in one place. That’s the reason we have failed to take it off air,” Attaullah Khogyani, the Nangarhar governor’s spokesperson, told VOA.

That does not please residents who fear IS’s spreading influence.

“The government should have stopped the radio, but it is unfortunate the government has failed in doing its job,” said activist Rahman.

IS has vowed that NATO and Afghan forces will not able to shut down “Voice of the Caliphate."

Nangarhar has recently seen an increasing presence of IS fighters, who have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security forces in several districts.

In an interview with VOA’s Afghan service this week, U.S. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said IS has become a threat to Afghanistan.

“IS will be very hard to beat. They are growing not only in Afghanistan, but in Libya, Egypt and numerous other countries,” McCain said. “We don’t have a strategy that I believe will stop the growth of IS in Afghanistan.”

VOA’s Noor Zahid and Ibrahim Nasar contributed to this report from Washington.