The recent terrorist attacks and the use of magnetic explosive devices or ‘sticky bombs’ in Kabul by Islamic State in Khurasan (ISK) and the Taliban have raised serious concerns in Afghanistan. If, until now, the Afghans were living under the fear of Taliban, al-Qaeda and Haqqani network’s attacks, the new concern is the use of sticky bombs by the likes of ISK that can take lives of people anytime.
Magnetic Bombs, a New Tactic
In addition to the suicide attacks being carried out by terrorist groups of all hues in Afghanistan, in recent years they have started using new tactics and methods to target people and government officials.
In Afghanistan, the use of sticky bombs by terrorists has increased in the last few years and a large number of such attacks have been reported especially from Kabul.
According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, “Using sticky bombs is a new method utilised by [our] enemies to carry out their bloody attacks in the country.”
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, referring to increased use of sticky bombs in the country, says that, “The Taliban and other terrorist groups, when failed on the battlefield, resort to other terrorist methods, to create fear among people.”
Sediqqi told Khabarnama about the detention of some groups being involved in transmission of sticky bombs and the greater efforts needed in this area to prevent terrorist attacks.
Sediqqi added, “All police forces in the provinces, particularly in Kabul, have been ordered to take serious measures to combat this phenomenon and seek appropriate strategies to deal with this phenomenon.”
Most terrorist attacks, in which sticky bombs were used, happened in Kabul although other provinces such as Parwan, Balkh, Herat, Takhar, Kunduz and Kandahar have also witnessed similar explosions.
While Kabul police officials say that there are no precise statistics about the number of terrorist attacks in which sticky bombs were used.
Afghan military vehicles are one of the targets of sticky bombs. In the past couple of years, terrorist groups besides suicide attacks, have carried out attacks on army and Afghan national security forces in cities, particularly in Kabul, using sticky bombs.
According to reports, targeting some government employees is one of the usages of these bombs in Kabul. In addition, terrorist groups have used this technique to target members of Parliament (MPs).
In May 2016, Sher Wali Wardak, Member of Parliament and brother of Farooq Wardak, a former minister of education of Afghanistan, was killed in front of his Kabul home. Investigations into the case revealed that a sticky bomb was placed in front of the main entrance gate of his house.
Civilians have also not been spared from the dangers of this type of attacks. Many ordinary citizens of Kabul have been targeted by magnetic explosives planted by terrorist groups.
Fraidon Obaidi, head of Kabul’s police criminal investigation department says that use of sticky bombs is one of the new methods of terrorist groups in Afghanistan, and in response, “Police investigation and intelligence sectors are seriously working in this area and we have identified and arrested several groups involved in such attacks.”
The head of Kabul’s police criminal investigation told Khabarnama that police forces are seriously investigating to identify transmission of these explosives and also groups which facilitate movement of these bombs to Kabul.
Cost Effective Tool
The head of Kabul’s police criminal investigation says that the sticky bombs have also been used for personal animosity.
Mr. Obaidi, however, says that police efforts to alleviate the concerns of people continue to identify all the groups, which are involved in this field.
According to him, “By sticking sticky bombs on government and military vehicles, our enemies aim to create fear among people.”
Mr. Obaidi requests military and government drivers to stay more aware of their vehicles and report suspicious cases to the police.
ISK Attacks on the rise in Kabul
In recent years in Afghanistan, IS Khurasan has carried out various attacks including suicide attacks and sticky bombs in the Afghan capital which raised concerns among people about the surge of the group in the country.
IS-Khurasan took responsibility for November 16 suicide attack on a bus that was carrying employees of Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS). Around 20 people were killed and wounded in the attack that occurred near Mahmood Khan Bridge.
After the suicide attack that occurred on Wednesday, Afghanistan’s presidential palace in a statement said, “To create fear among people and disrupt security of the Afghan people, terrorist groups target holy sites, passengers and our security forces who are working day and night to provide security to people.”
The Afghan president too said that terrorist groups, by creating fear among people and carrying out terror acts, cannot achieve their goals because Afghanistan’s security forces will stand against them.
Previously, ISK claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks on Enlightenment Movement’s demonstration as well as an attack on the night of Ashura mourning ceremony at the Sakhi shrine. These attacks killed and wounded dozens of people.
Although Nangarhar province is the main center for Islamic State’s Khurasan branch’s activities in Afghanistan, it seems that Kabul has become increasingly a valuable target of ISK and other major terrorist formations.
Fear of Growing Islamic State’s Influence
Most recently, Afghan officials came up with warnings about the influence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. First Vice-President, General Dostum has said that the group plans to deploy more than 7,000 troops in northeast of Badakhshan and West of Badghis. He clearely stated that ‘Pakistan’s military intelligence’ as well as ‘some Afghan security forces and civilians’ are the main supporters of ISK bases in North Afghanistan.
Zahir Qadir, First Deputy Speaker of Afghanistan’s House of Representatives, had also warned about the influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan particularly in Nangarhar. In a meeting of the Afghan Parliament, Mr. Qadir said that he would travel to Nangarhar to consult local people about the fight against terrorist groups.
On the other hand, officials of the Ministry of Defence of Afghanistan had warned about the Syria and Iraq based Islamic State’s (formerly ISIS) programme to establish bases in the country. However, the officials added that the Afghan security forces will not allow IS gain power and influence in the country.
ISK presence in Nangarhar and Ghor
Nangarhar in the East and Ghor in the West of Afghanistan are two provinces where ISK’s mobility and influence is on the rise.
In early November, local officials reported about the presence and movements of ISK in Achin and Pchyragam districts of Nangarhar Province.
Attaullah Khogyani, spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar province said that battle in Pchyragam district began when ISK attacked several villages in the district, fought with armed civilians and set fire the homes of people.
After that, fight between government forces and ISK continued for several days in the district. There are evidences that show focus and attention of ISKon Nangarhar province as their main base.
In the spring of 2015 presence of ISK was reported in Shinwar district of Nangarhar. This group then succeeded in the districts of Achin, Spinghar, the Nazis and Betty Kot, to defeat the Taliban and raised their black flag instead of Taliban’s white flag.
US officials had also warned that the Syria based Islamic State intends to use Nangarhar province as their regional base of operations in the so-called state of Khurasan. In 2014, General John Campbell, former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, warned of the presence of IS in Afghanistan.
Ghor province in the West of Afghanistan, recently witnessed mobility and presence of people having links to the Islamic State. Earlier this year, members of ISK took dozens of civilians including teenagers as hostages and then killed them all in Ghor province.
The killing of those civilians, who were all farmers and shepherds, has raised concerns among Afghans about the rise of this terrorist group.
Afghan Interior Ministry officials consider ISK alongside the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network, as terrorist groups, and the enemies of Afghanistan as well.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi in an interview with Khabarnama said the IS Khurasan formation has links with other terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
According to him, suppression of the Islamic State in Nangarhar province is part of the government’s efforts to eliminate the group in Afghanistan.
Mr Sediqqi calls the Islamic State as an enemy of the people of Afghanistan and says that Afghan police tries its best to combat and eliminate terrorist groups such as ISK in the country.
Peace, an elusive dream
The Afghan government is seeking peace with insurgent groups such as the Taliban. The High Peace Council in Afghanistan was mainly formed in order to advance peace talks with armed opposition groups such as the Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who recently signed a peace deal with the Afghan government.
Although recently, the government has managed to sign peace agreement with the Islamic Party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the government’s efforts to persuade the Taliban to stop war and join peace talks with the Afghan government, so far has not yielded any productive results.
It is for years that the Taliban is in a constant fight with the Afghan Government. Civilians are the main victims of Taliban’s attacks. Economic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, clinics and schools, and mosques are destroyed by this group.
As government’s failed efforts to negotiate with the Taliban to bring peace continue, rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan is a fast emerging threat, and, concern and hope for an end to the war in Afghanistan is quite bleak.
Now the question is that even if the government succeeds to bring the Taliban to the dialogue table, how will it deal with the new groups that have emerged, such as the Islamic State Khurasan?