Kot district, Nangahar province, Afghanistan
Kot district, Nangahar province, Afghanistan

Authorities in Afghanistan say security forces have killed more than 120 fighters of the Islamic State terror group, including senior commanders, and captured a key base for the militants in far eastern Nangahar province, bordering Pakistan.

Security forces also arrested more than two dozen militants of the group during the operations, Attaullah Khogyani, a provincial government spokesman, told VOA. It is not possible to verify the official's claims.

Footage on Afghan television channels and pictures released to media showed a training center and court building officials said the fighters for "Daesh," the Arabic acronym for IS, used for staging attacks in nearby areas and dispensing its brand of Islamic justice.

He said the offensive was unleashed on Saturday, hours after the deadly bombing of a protest rally by in Kabul. Officials said three suicide bomber struck the demonstration of the Shi'ite ethnic Hazara community, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 200 others.

Afghans gather property, left behind by victims of
Afghans gather property, left behind by victims of a deadly explosion that struck a protest march by ethnic Hazaras, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 23, 2016.

A website linked to IS claimed the group was behind the bloodshed, and said it was retaliation for what it said were Afghan fighters that were sent by Iran to Syrian to help the government of Bashar al Assad in its fight against the Islamic State.

Senior IS commander reported killed

Afghan officials say that Saad Emarati was among IS commanders killed in the operations in Kot, though the terror outfit has not yet commented on official claims.

A former member of the Taliban insurgency, Emarati was believed to be among founders of Daesh’s Afghanistan-Pakistan branch. If confirmed, his killing would be a major blow to IS trying to expand its influence in Afghanistan.

Reports of his death in previous Afghan security operations have also appeared in local media.

IS emerged on the Afghan scene in early 2015 when it announcement establishment of its so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province, which consists of Afghanistan and parts of neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

While claiming responsibility for Saturday’s suicide attack in Kabul, the worst such incident in the city since 2001, IS warned it would carry out more attacks against ethnic Hazaras unless they stopped joining government forces in Syria fighting the terror group.

Human rights groups say Hazaras among nearly three million Afghan refugees living in Iran are being recruited and trained by Iranian authorities and sent to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad forces there.