Afghanistan: 31 Haqqani network terrorists arrest in Khost province


At least 31 terrorists belonging to the notorious Haqqani terrorist network have been arrested in Southeastern Khost province, like reported by .

The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said the militants apprehended by the intelligence operatives, were operating in two different groups led by the terrorist network.

NDS further added that the militants were arrested during the two separate military operations.

According to NDS, the militants were involved in various terrorist activities in Khost province.

The National Directorate of Security also added that the intelligence operatives confiscated 2 motorcycles, 50 magnetic bombs, 6 hand grenades, 18 RPG rockets, 36 boxes of heavy machine gun, 5 boxes of AK-47 rifle ammunition, 80 AK-47 rifle magazines, and 3 vehicles used by the militants without having registration plate numbers.

Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.

The network is accused of staging numerous cross-border attacks from their base in North Waziristan, including the 19-hour siege at the US Embassy in Kabul in September 2011.

It is considered the most lethal insurgent group targeting the NATO-led coalition security forces and Afghan personnel in Afghanistan.

The US Department of State designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012.

Afghanistan: 8 key Taliban leaders among 37 killed in join operations

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At least 37 Taliban insurgents including 8 key leaders of the group were killed during the joint military operations in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said according to .

The operations were conducted in Kunar, Kapisa, Uruzgan, Herat, Kunduz, Baghlan, and Helmand provinces.

According to a statement by MoD, at least 14 militants were also wounded and 3 others including Pakistani nationals were arrested.

The 8 key Taliban leaders were killed in Musa Qala district and have been identified as Mullah Tahir who was responsible for the financing of the group, Haji Nasir who was recruiting for the group, Haji Khadem who was in command of the Red Unit of the Taliban, Haji Rouhani, Taliban’s shadow district chief for Marjah, Haji Lala, Taliban’s shadow district chief for Nawzad, Haji Kamil, commander of the Red Unit for Nahr-e-Saraj, Haji Khalid, Taliban’s shadow deputy governor for Uruzgan, Mullah Sadiq Agha, Taliban’s military chief for Kandahar and Helmand.

The statement further added that two Pakistani insurgents were also among the 36 killed in the operations in Helmand province.

The ministry also added that 4 hideouts of the Taliban group were also destroyed in the operations in Greshk district.

Another militant was killed in Tagab district of eastern Kapisa province and another militant was wounded.

Istanbul Reina nightclub attack suspect ‘trained in Afghanistan’


The man suspected of carrying out the New Year’s Eve attack on a nightclub in Istanbul was trained in Afghanistan, the city’s governor says, according to

Vasip Sahin said the man, named earlier as Uzbek national Abdulkadir Masharipov, was believed to have entered Turkey in January 2016.

Mr Sahin said the suspect had confessed to the attack and that his fingerprints matched those found at the scene.

Thirty-nine people died in the attack on the Reina club with dozens wounded.

Citizens of Israel, France, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were among the victims.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

Police arrested the man on Monday evening at the home of a Kyrgyz friend in Istanbul, Turkish media reported. The friend was also reportedly detained, along with three women.

Mr Sahin said that contrary to earlier reports, the man’s four year-old son was not with him when he was caught.

Police also seized pistols, ammunition and foreign currency in the raid, Mr Sahin added.

Chechens detain over 50 militants linked to Daesh


Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov said his forces had detained more than 50 insurgents linked to the Daesh militant group, completing a major security operation, according to

Kadyrov wrote on Instagram on Sunday that security forces had captured an armed group co-ordinated by a Chechen fighter located in Syria, with the latest arrests taking place in various locations on Saturday.

“Now the whole group of bandits has been neutralised and more than 50 members have been brought to police stations,” Kadyrov said,

He also posted a video of himself speaking to a group of the captured men in Chechen.

The Moscow-back leader of the North Caucasus region called the operation — planned since last summer — “a big success for the law enforcement agencies.”

The Russian North Caucasus is one of the major sources of foreign militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The Chechen leader said police on Saturday detained several participants of the armed group including an “especially dangerous terrorist” named as Imran Datsayev who threw a hand grenade but was captured alive.

He said Datsayev testified that he received orders from Daesh to kill a police officer and had killed a police sergeant last November.

Russia fought two brutal separatist wars over the past two decades in Chechnya but the region has been largely pacified under Kadyrov’s iron-fisted rule.

A dwindling group of insurgents are still fighting the authorities in Chechnya and across the volatile North Caucasus, and sporadically launch eye-catching attacks.

Bereaved women join fight against Islamic State in northern Afghanistan


Gul Bibi, an Afghan grandmother well into her eighties, never expected to become a fighter. But now she is one of more than a hundred women in Afghanistan’s northern Jawzjan province who have taken up arms against Islamist militants, like reported by .

Nearly all of the women have lost a husband, son or brother to the Taliban or the newly active Islamic State in the province bordering Turkmenistan. “I lost nine members of my family. The Taliban and Daesh (Islamic State) killed my five sons and four nephews,” Bibi said by phone from Jawzjan.

“I have taken up arms to defeat the terrorists so other people’s sons won’t get killed.”

Determined to protect their families, the women approached a local police commander, Sher Ali, in December and asked him for guns and ammunition.

“They came to me and said that if I didn’t provide them with weapons they would kill themselves — before Daesh or the Taliban could,” Ali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The women are not a properly structured group, he said; they have no uniform and have not received any military training other than how to point a gun at the enemy and shoot.

On Dec 25, Islamic State fighters attacked Garmjar village and killed five civilians, burned down about 60 houses and forced 150 families to flee, he said by instant messenger.

A woman in her twenties, who did not want to give her name, said her husband and many other family members had been killed by the Taliban.

Now she is fighting back, she said. “I hit the Taliban with this PK (machine gun), and the Taliban fled. Most of the their men died. I will stand against Daesh and will hit them too,” she said by phone from Jawzjan.

The women fighters are not registered with the army or police and the government has not licensed their weapons, Abdul Hafiz Khashi, head of the security department of Jawzjan police, was reported as saying in the Afghan media last week.

Although local police have cautiously welcomed the new defence force, he said, the rag-tag women’s unit has raised concerns among higher authorities.

“We do not support any armed group, unless they come under one of our forces,” Najib Danish, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said from Kabul.

“We hope they join the Afghan security forces, so we can help them as part of our troops,” he said.

But the women accuse the Afghan army of failing to protect their families from the militants.

“First they killed my brother, then they killed my cousin, my uncle and my brother-in-law,” said Zarmina, another woman fighter. “Now that I have taken up arms, I am going to fight to the death.”

Mariam lost three members of her family in the Islamic State attack on Garmjar village in December. She fled to Qush Tepa and joined the women fighters.

“Daesh came, hit us, abused us, killed our people and burned about a hundred houses. They didn’t leave anything for us. They killed three members of my family. They wanted to burn us, but we fled and came here,” she said by phone. “When you have nothing left in your life, you will take up weapons and fight to the death.”

3 Malaysian ISIS militants killed in airstrikes in Syria


Three Malaysian militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including one shown in a video threatening attacks against Malaysia, have been killed in clashes with Syrian forces, like reported by

Based on an intelligence report received by the police, the three – Zainuri Kamaruddin, Ahmad Asyraf Arbee Ahmad Jamal Arbee and Sazrizal Mohd Sofian Tahyalan – were killed when Syrian forces carried out an air strike on the ISIS stronghold in Raqqah, Syria, on Friday (Jan 13).

The latest deaths bring to 30 the total number of Malaysian militants killed in Iraq and Syria, police said.

Zainuri, 50, also known as Abu Talhah, appeared in an ISIS video, threatening attacks on places in Malaysia. The video appeared weeks before the attack on the Movida nightclub in July last year.

In the video, which was circulated in May last year, Zainuri was seen holding a red passport while issuing threats of attacks, as other militants were holding green passports. The red passport is associated with Malaysia and the green ones with Indonesia.

Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Deputy Comm Datuk Ayob Khan said that after the threats were made, the militants, believed to be members of the Malay-speaking wing of ISIS, Katibah Nusantara, were seen burning their passports.

DCP Ayob said in the video, Zainuri, who is from Bota, Perak, had asked Malaysians to join the fight in Syria.

“Among others identified in the video were Sazrizal as well as Abd Halid Dari and Muhammad Nasrullah Abd Latif, also known as Abu Gomez,” he said when contacted.

Zainuri was a former Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia member and was detained in 2001 under the Internal Security Act. He was also involved in the armed robbery of Southern Bank Berhad in 2001.

He was among those actively recruiting Malaysians to join ISIS through social media as well as arranging their travel and safe passage into Syria, added DCP Ayob.

Thirty-one-year-old Ahmad Asyraf Arbee, also known as Abu Luqman Al Malizi, is from Shah Alam and believed to have left for Syria in 2014.

The third militant killed – 27-year-old Sazrizal – also known as Abu Badar Al Malizi, left for Syria in 2014 with his wife.

DCP Ayob said Sazrizal and his wife had worked as fruit pickers in Australia to save money for their trip to Syria.

“Among those with him in Australia was militant Mohamad Amirul Ahmad Rahim, who died in a suicide bomb attack by driving a truck full of explosives in Raqqah, Syria,” he said.

Malaysian Police detain 6 Daesh Islamist terrorist, seize bomb-making equipment

Malaysian police detained six men with connections with the Daesh jihadist group and seized bomb-making equipment during a raid in the city of Pasir Mas, local media reported Sunday.

The men, aged between 30 to 40 years old, were detained at their homes. The police raided the houses after receiving information from the citizens, the police chief added.

“There is a possible element of the Islamic State [Daesh] involved. We are investigating further, as this a threat to the country’s security,” Kelantan police chief Datuk Dr Ab Rahman Ismail told reporters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

According to the official, ten police officers were involved in the operation. Daesh is outlawed in Malaysia, Russia and numerous other countries.

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ISIS militants kidnap 13 seminary teachers in East of Afghanistan


At least 13 seminary teachers were abducted by the loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province, local officials said Sunday to .

The officials further added that the incident took place in Haska Mina district after a group of ISIS militants stormed into a religious school in Deh Bala area.

A local official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the 13 abducted teachers were taken to an unknown location.

District administrative chief Sazwali confirmed the abduction of the teachers speaking to VOA’s Afghanistan service.

The loyalists of the terror group have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the loyalists of the terror group torched at least 65 houses in Kot district which was once under the control of the terror group.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed the incident and said no casualties were incurred to the local residents but an official in Kot said the loyalists of the terror group torched the houses of those who refused to pledge allegiance to them.

The latest movements by ISIS loyalist in Nangarhar come as the terror group received major blows during the counter-terrorism operations during the recent months.

Both the Afghan and US forces conducted regular strikes against the loyalists of the terror group in this province.

The increased raids, usually involving drone strikes, by the US forces followed a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier last year.

The broader role was granted amid concerns that the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to expand foothold in the country and turn the eastern Nangarhar province into a regional operational hub for its fighters.

Afghanistan: Daesh torches 65 houses in Nangarhar


“Daesh militants have torched 65 residential houses in Baba Ghondi area of Kot district in Nangarhar province yesterday,” said spokesman for provincial governor Attaullah Khogiani.

He said that most of the families had fled the Baba Ghonid area recently due to conflicts.

During torching no family were in houses, so there is no human casualties in the area, he added.

He stated that the familieshad transferred households’ goods with them during conflict to a safe area as well, so no more financial loses caused in the incident in Kot district.

He termed torching of residential houses by Daesh fighters an atrocity and horrible act, adding that militant want to create fear among locality people in the area.

He insisted that Daesh will never reach their goals through such cruelty acts in Nangarhar province.

According to some report Daesh fighters are active in some district of Nangarhar province particularly in Kot and Achin district and they are struggling to recruit people in the area.

The security forces as well as the US forces are regularly conducting counter-terrorism operations to root out the loyalists of Daesh terrorists who are attempting to expand foothold in the country.

In October 2016, the terrorist group has carried out complex attacks on Pachir Wa Agam district in Nangarhar province.

The district lies in the southeast of the province, sharing border with tribal areas along the Durand Line. The terror outfit torched several houses and killed civilians last year in the district.

The first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum said the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) planned to deploy at least 7,000 fighters to Afghanistan.”

He said that Daesh was attempting to deploy foreign militants mainly citizens of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Chechnya in the northern areas, where Dostum is personally leading military operation against terrorists.

Moreover, Afghan security forces with the support of foreign troops had carried out counter-terrorism operations and pounded Daesh fighters’ positions. The operation conducted with the aim of suppressing the activities of Daesh fighters in the province.

Russia returns to Afghanistan


Russia is a great power that retains muscle memory (and a strategic arsenal) from its past superpowerdom. In the Ukraine and Syria, Russia has challenged the United States—its former peer and a hesitant hegemon in decline—through direct military interventions. Additionally, Moscow has impressively deployed hybrid warfare tactics to create the perception that it has influenced the U.S. presidential election and forged a rift between the incoming commander-in-chief and elements of the U.S. intelligence community.

Surprisingly, Afghanistan is emerging as another arena in which Moscow is pointedly working at odds with Washington’s interests. Indeed, recent moves by Russia now represent a pivot toward Afghanistan, posing a set of challenges that have been unanticipated by U.S. observers of the region. The incoming Trump Administration ought to be aware of Russia’s newfound assertiveness vis-à-vis Afghanistan, both in the threats it poses as well as the potential opportunities it may present.

A Russian About-Face in Afghanistan

In late December, Moscow hosted a trilateral dialogue with Beijing and Islamabad on the future of Afghanistan. Importantly, left out of the talks were Kabul, Washington and New Delhi—a historic Russian ally now moving closer to the United States. The joint statement released after the dialogue expressed support for talks with the Afghan Taliban and concern over the spread of Islamic State.

The Russo-Sino-Pak trilateral did not emerge out of thin air. It is the latest in a series of Russian efforts to engage both Islamabad and the Afghan Taliban. Together, these moves mark a definitive departure from Moscow’s decades-old policy toward the region. Pakistan was a strong U.S. ally during most of the Cold War, while the Soviet Union had a defense pact with the nominally non-aligned India. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan, in concert with the United States, helped make Afghanistan a graveyard for the Red Army, forcing its withdrawal. Over the 1990s, Moscow, in concert with New Delhi and Tehran, supported the Northern Alliance against groups backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—first, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i Islami (HIG) and then the Afghan Taliban.

After 9/11, Moscow supported the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, which ousted the Taliban and brought back to power elements of the Northern Alliance that Russia had supported. The post-9/11 Afghan war and broader global war on terror also gave Moscow space to brutally crush the Chechen insurgency, which had been taken over by Salafi jihadists after Russia sidelined Chechen Sufi separatists. Russia also provided diplomatic and logistical support for a sizable U.S. military presence in its backyard. From 2009 into 2015, Russia served as a supply route for U.S. and NATO forces through what was known as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), which lessened Washington’s dependence on Islamabad for the Pakistan-based ground lines of communication into Afghanistan.

Containing the Drug Trade, ISIS and America

Moscow’s relations with Washington have taken a turn for the worse since 2014, following the Russian intervention in the Ukraine. In the same year, U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan came to an end without having meaningfully weakened the Afghan Taliban. Moscow has had to contend with the reality that there are insufficient U.S. and NATO troops to defeat the Taliban, but still a troubling number of residual Western forces too close to home in its strategic backyard. Additionally, as the Taliban resurges, Islamic State has developed an embryonic presence along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Russia has legitimate fears about the group using Afghanistan to establish networks nearby in Central Asia. Meanwhile, opium production in Afghanistan continues at near-record levels, which severely impacts Russia as it is both a transit route for Europe-bound Afghan opiates and a major consumer market. Russia consumes around a fifth of the world’s illegal opiate supply and is afflicted by a heroin addiction epidemic.

It is in this context that, last year, Moscow has stepped up its engagement with the Afghan Taliban. Communication between Russia and the Taliban, according to unnamed Taliban officials, goes back to 2007, but outreach appears to have not only intensified last year, it may have also grown to material support for the militant group. An unnamed Taliban commander told the AFP that Russia aided the insurgent group’s takeover of Kunduz this past fall. Additionally, Moscow is also reportedly hindering the implementation of a peace deal between Kabul and HIG, which hardliners in the Afghan Taliban have opposed.

These latter two developments beget two questions. If Russia supports a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, why is blocking a deal that, if successful, could provide a model for a future settlement with the Taliban? And if Moscow is indeed providing lethal support to the Afghan Taliban, are its objectives merely to curry favor with the group and counter Islamic State?

Russian concerns clearly go beyond Islamic State and the drug trade. It sees the residual U.S. presence in Afghanistan as a latent threat. In a lengthy interview with Turkey’s Andalou Agency, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s top Afghanistan hand, expressed concern over a long-term U.S. military presence in the region, stating that there is no “clear-cut answer” as to why the United States “want[s] land bases in Afghanistan.” Kabulov claimed that the present U.S. infrastructure in Afghanistan gives it “two to four weeks to redeploy up to 100,000 soldiers on the same bases.”

The 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while down from a peak of 98 thousand, mean that the United States remains leveraged in the landlocked country. While Moscow could provide tactical assistance to the Afghan Taliban in order to increase U.S. casualties in Afghanistan to a level where the commitment becomes too costly politically, forcing a full withdrawal, it is also possible that it could use its growing influence in Afghanistan to exact concessions from the United States as part of a grand bargain. America’s role as the ultimate guarantor of the current Afghan regime—and the physical presence of U.S. military personnel in the country—are vulnerabilities that Russia could exploit.

During the next fighting season, Russia could aid the Taliban in targeting U.S. troops playing an “advise and assist” role alongside Afghan troops or help the insurgent group take over and hold northern Afghan provinces. Moscow could even aid Taliban efforts at rebranding, covertly subsidizing local goodwill projects claimed by the Taliban, such as the construction of infrastructure and schools.

In an extreme and highly unlikely scenario, Russia could ally with China and Pakistan to create an alternative bloc to the U.S-led coalition and push for and own a new, broad-based political settlement in Afghanistan. China has taken the unusual step of embracing the Russian position on Syria, in addition to Afghanistan. And Russia’s ties with Pakistan are steadily improving. Moscow has lifted a ban on arms sales to Islamabad and will deliver four Mi-35M attack helicopters to Pakistan in 2017. It will soon finalize a $2 billion natural gas pipeline agreement with Islamabad. And the two countries conducted their first-ever joint military exercises in Pakistan, much to the consternation of New Delhi.

Room for Cooperation with the United States?

China, Pakistan and Russia are more likely to attempt to countervail, rather than supplant, U.S. influence in Afghanistan. They would be foolish to attempt to attain stewardship over the poor, volatile country. And so, rather than reflexively view the Russians as adversaries in Afghanistan, the Trump Administration ought to look for convergence with Russia and other regional states. Since last spring, Washington and Kabul have backed away from the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which included Beijing and Islamabad, which had attempted to facilitate an Afghan-led negotiation process with the Taliban. The Obama administration has since sought to encourage greater Indian involvement in Afghanistan, but India has neither the land connectivity nor the diplomatic and military heft that could adequately complement U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan over the long haul.

The Trump administration should consider reviving the QCQ and inviting Russia to join the group. There remains substantial common ground between Russia and the United States when it comes to Afghanistan. Russia seeks to neutralize transnational elements connected to the Afghan insurgency and combat the drug trade. It also would like to block ISIS’s attempts to gain a foothold in the region. And while the Russians have granted legitimacy to the Afghan Taliban, they have indicated that they do not necessarily see the Haqqani Network as reconcilable. Inclusion of Russia in an Afghan-led peace effort backed by regional states signals respect for it as a great power with influence in Central Asia. In addition to helping stabilize Afghanistan over the long-term, it could serve as a confidence builder with Moscow that may translate into other conflict arenas. In contrast, for the United States, the risks from a more hostile approach toward Russia on Afghanistan outweigh any potential upside.