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Taliban Capture 12 Islamic State Members in Northeastern Afghanistan

FILE - Taliban fighters patrol on the road during a celebration marking the second anniversary of the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan, in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2023.

Afghanistan's Taliban have reportedly arrested 12 operatives of the local branch of the Islamic State terrorist group in a remote northeastern region bordering China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

The Al-Mersaad state-affiliated media said Friday that Taliban special forces had launched an operation this week against an "important network" of the Islamic State-Khorasan, or IS-K, in the mountainous Afghan province of Badakhshan.

The four-day operation captured 12 IS-K militants and large weapons caches, including assault rifles, bombs, bullets, computers and other technical equipment, the media outlet quoted unnamed Taliban security officials as saying.

The detainees were allegedly "involved in attacks on civilian and government targets" in the border province.

It was not possible to verify the Taliban's claims from independent sources, nor did the Islamic State comment on them. Al-Mersaad is working to counter IS-Khorasan extremist propaganda in Afghanistan.

Car bombings in Badakhshan last December and in June this year killed the provincial police chief and the deputy governor, respectively. IS-K claimed responsibility for both the attacks.

IS-K has carried out high-profile attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power from a U.S.-backed government in Kabul in August 2021. The Taliban took control after American and NATO forces withdrew from the country following 20 years of involvement in the Afghan war.

Last year, IS-K carried out a deadly suicide bombing outside the Russian Embassy in the Afghan capital, plotted a failed assassination attempt on the chief Pakistani diplomat, and raided a downtown hotel hosting Chinese citizens.

However, Taliban security forces in recent months have carried out successful raids against IS-K hideouts in Kabul and elsewhere in the country, killing several key commanders and members of the terrorist group.

The Taliban counterterrorism campaign also reportedly killed IS-K chief Sanaullah Ghafari in June. The terrorist group has since not responded to the claims.

The United Nations said in a report in July that the death of Ghafari, widely known as Shahab al-Muhajir, "remains to be confirmed."

On Friday, U.S. officials briefing reporters said that IS-K has been under increasing pressure from the Taliban, and many of its key leaders have fled the country in recent months.

"ISIS-K is a threat that we are certainly concerned about, from an external operations perspective," CNN quoted one of the officials as saying.

"ISIS Khorasan members involved in media, facilitation, and recruitment in support of external operations are increasingly moving to neighboring countries to evade the Taliban [counterterrorism] campaign," the official said.

Speaking to VOA in April, Taliban chief spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed their security forces had arrested and imprisoned up to 1,700 IS-K militants and killed nearly 1,100 others. The claims could not be confirmed by independent sources.

Recent U.N. assessments estimated that up to 6,000 IS-K militants, including family members, operate in Afghanistan.