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Islamic State threatens more attacks in Afghanistan as US hits militants in eastern province

Men carry the coffin of a relative who died in a suicide attack on the Supreme Court in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

RAHMAT GUL/AP

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 9, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Islamic State group on Thursday threatened “more devastating” attacks against Afghan courts two days after a bombing outside the country’s Supreme Court that killed 21 people and injured dozens more.

The militants claimed responsibility for the Tuesday attack outside Afghanistan’s top court, which stoked fears that the group could be spreading out from its traditional strongholds along the country’s mountainous border with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials announced that two U.S. drone strikes on Wednesday killed 11 of the group’s militants in eastern Nangarhar province, including senior commanders Mohammed Omar Sadiq and Omar Farooq.

The Islamic State warned in a statement Thursday that “more devastating and bitter” attacks against Afghan courts and judicial personnel were to come.

“Let the apostates, and at their head the judges of the tyrants, know that the disbelieving judgments they issue against the monotheist mujahedeen serve the crusaders and will not pass without severe punishment,” said a statement by the group translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The militants refer to coalition forces as “crusaders.”

The statement identified the attacker as Abu Bakr al-Tajiki, a Tajik national.

Kabul police said the man approached the court on foot and detonated an explosive vest in a parking lot as employees were leaving for the day.

The blast injured more than 40 people, including two children, Health Ministry officials said. 

Afghan officials believe Islamic State gunmen were also responsible for an attack on Wednesday that killed six Afghan Red Cross employees in northern Jowzjan province.

“This is  the act of Daesh,” said Lutfullah Azizi, Jowzjan’s governor, using an Arabic abbreviation for the Islamic State. The group has not claimed responsibility for the deaths.

Azizi said that a number of Islamic State militants are in Jowzjan fighting government troops and harming innocent civilians.

Fighters pledging loyalty to Islamic State began operating in Afghanistan in 2015, taking credit for attacks in eastern provinces and in the capital, Kabul. They have also regularly clashed with Taliban guerrillas, whose leaders have condemned the Islamic State fighters as foreign murderers.

The U.S. military, which has been fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan as part of a counterterrorism mission, says there are roughly 1,000 loyalists in the country, mostly in Nangarhar province.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @PhillipWellman

 

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