Bloodiest days ahead for war weary Afghans

Daesh’s brutal reign of terror creeping into the country.

By (AFP)

Published: Tue 21 Apr 2015, 12:11 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:39 PM

Kabul — Claims that the Daesh group carried out a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan raise questions about whether the culprits are the real deal or Taleban turncoats now waving the Daesh black flag.

Either way, war-weary Afghans seem to be in for the bloodiest fighting season in a decade.

The bomb on Saturday ripped through a crowd of government officials waiting to draw their salaries outside the Kabul Bank in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing at least 34 people and wounding more than 100.

It was the most lethal bombing in the country to be claimed by insurgents allegedly allied with Daesh, which has captured swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq but never acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani repeated the claim by the attackers in a speech on Saturday, intensifying fears that the Daesh’s brutal reign of terror was creeping into Afghanistan, already in the grip of a fierce Taleban insurgency.

But analysts — and even some officials within the Ghani administration — view the claim with caution.

It remains unclear whether the self-styled Daesh attackers have the official sanction of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Daesh.

“There are two type of Daesh,” deputy Afghan intelligence chief Hesamuddin Hesam said.

“One that operates in Syria and one that is in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan they are the same old Taleban who have swapped their white flag with black, and have become more swift and deadly.”

The Taleban, which distanced itself from Saturday’s attack, have seen defections in recent months — with some insurgents apparently adopting the Daesh flag to rebrand themselves as a more lethal force as Nato troops depart.

In February a US-led Nato drone strike killed Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former Taleban commander and a Guantanamo detainee who led around 300 men suspected of links to Daesh in the volatile southern province of Helmand.

And in March Hafiz Waheed, a successor to Khadim, was killed along with nine others in the Sangin district of Helmand, according to the Afghan defence ministry.

It is not known whether the men had the official sanction of Daesh, which announced its presence in South Asia a year ago but has struggled to expand its footprint as it did in the Middle East.

“Afghanistan is both geographically — and ideologically — far away from the Daesh,” said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Afghanistan. — AFP

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