Islamic State fighters surrendered in Afghanistan’s north

Vastavam web: More than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered in Afghanistan today, Afghan officials said, a move which they and the Taliban hailed as the end of the extremist group in the north of the country.NATO urged caution, saying it was premature to write the group off in the region.The surrender came after weeks of intense fighting between IS and the Taliban in Jowzjan province in the north, and continuing pressure from Afghan and US forces.”Their fighters have surrendered in the past, but this time it is more important because the Daesh leader and deputy surrendered with more than 150 fighters all at once,” Mohammad Hanif Rezaee, spokesman for the army’s

209 Corps in the north, told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.Rezaee said 30 women and children had also handed themselves in to Afghan authorities.”With this, the Daesh chapter is going to be closed in the north,” he added.IS has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan, mainly in the eastern province of Nangarhar but more recently in Jowzjan.The group has fought turf wars with the much larger Taliban since emerging in Afghanistan in 2014. Estimates of their numbers in the country run as high as around 2,000.

Until a few weeks ago there had been around 500 IS fighters in the Darzab and Qush Tepa districts of Jowzjan, provincial governor Lutfullah Azizi has said.The Taliban took credit for the surrender announced by Afghan officials today, saying it had “cleared” the north of IS fighters.It claimed it had captured 130, wounded more than 100 and killed 153.

The development comes as the Afghan army took over security in Jalalabad, with more checkpoints set up and special forces conducting operations a day after militants stormed a government department in the city and killed 15 people.No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but IS is widely suspected of carrying it out.”To provide better security for the people, the national army is leading the security in the city,” Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, told AFP.

The army will spearhead efforts “to contain the emergency situation” for a week, Khogyani said. Eventually, police and soldiers “will join hands to secure the city”, he added, but declined to give further details.Mohammad Ali, a soldier deployed from neighbouring Kunar province, told AFP at a checkpoint that he and his colleagues would “defend this city until the death”.But IS has carried out multiple attacks in Jalalabad and the capital Kabul in recent months, targeting everything from government ministries to a midwife training centre.

Last month an IS suicide bomber blew himself up near Kabul international airport, killing 23 people including AFP driver Mohammad Akhtar.The increased attacks come as US and Afghan forces intensify ground and air offensives against IS, and the Taliban step up their turf war with the group.”IS has come under intense pressure they have lost a lot of men,” said former general Hadi Khalid, now a military analyst.”The only strategy that can keep them going is to attack soft targets and that is what they have been doing recently.”