Masked gunmen claiming to be members of the Islamic State allegedly killed a Taliban commander in central Logar province, a local official told Afghan news agency Pajhwok on Monday — once again raising fears about the Iraq and Syria-based group's ideological influence on some Afghan militants as the Taliban there grows more divided.
Abdul Ghani was reportedly gunned down and his three bodyguards injured in an early morning attack at a local market, the district's administrative chief said. The gunmen — dressed in the all-black clothing frequently worn by the Islamic State — later forced their way into local homes smashing television sets, antennas, and recording devices and warned residents against watching TV.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the attack, which comes as small groups of the self-proclaimed Islamic State have emerged in Afghanistan, challenging other local militants — from whose ranks many of them have come.
Separately, Mohammad Omar Safi, the governor of Kunduz, said Monday that there were about 70 "Islamic State" militants in that northern Afghani province and called on the government to deal with the growing threat.
Earlier this month, a group of former members of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a video, in which they introduced the caliphate's local leadership in the region.
So far, there is no evidence that the group has any actual connection to the militants in Iraq and Syria, beyond a verbal pledge of allegiance. But the possibility that the Islamic State is taking root in Afghanistan could point to growing divisions among the country's hardline Islamist groups.
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"We should treat reports of ISIS in Afghanistan with caution, because of the historic weakness of foreign-linked Islamist groups in the country, and because Afghan officials have a tendency to play up the ISIS threat as a way of trying to capture the West's flagging attention," Anand Gopal, an analyst and author of a book on the US war in Afghanistan, told VICE News following the release of that video. "With that being said, however, it does appear that a few disgruntled Afghan Taliban members are rebranding themselves as ISIS."
Afghan and international officials have confirmed the Islamic State's presence in Afghanistan but said the threat was limited for the time being.
Animosity between the leadership of the Islamic State and other established militants groups is not new. The group's self-proclaimed Calif, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has already picked fights with al Qaeda.
Recently, al Baghdadi called Mullah Omar — the Taliban's elusive spiritual leader, who hasn't been seen in public since shortly after the start of the US invasion in 2001 — a "fool and illiterate warlord," Afghan news agency Khaama reported.
In a speech late last month, Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani also reportedly touted the group's expansion into Afghanistan and Pakistan, calling on members there to "prepare" for the coming fight against local factions.
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