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Who are the ISKP? The group that has claimed responsibility for Kabul airport attack, active in India too

ISIS-K or Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) - is the regional affiliate of ISIS or the Islamic State that was set up in January 2015 in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISKP, is an Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State terror group that operates in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

On Thursday, August 26, bomb blasts inside Hamid Karzai international airport in Afghan’s capital Kabul killed more than 100 people, including 13 US troops, disrupting the ongoing Afghan evacuation of tens of thousands of stranded civilians.

Soon after the attacks on their forces, the United States officials attributed attacks that killed more than 100 people at the Kabul airport to Islamic State’s regional affiliate Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP).

The ISKP has also taken responsibility for the bombing of the Kabul airport and has released images of the terrorist who blew himself up inside the Kabul airport. Abdul Rehman Al-Loghri of the ISKP was allegedly the suicide bomber.

What is Islamic State Khorasan (ISKP)?

The ISIS-K or Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) – is an offshoot of the Islamic State terror group that operates in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Khorasan refers to a historical region comprising of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, the territories once controlled by a caliphate.

ISKP operates from the eastern province of Nangarhar, strategically located between the drug and people trafficking routes of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The terrorist group was first formed in 2015 after several dissatisfied fighters of the Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, who viewed their own organisation as moderate outfits, joined the Islamic State, swearing to create a caliphate. The ISKP also influenced several radical Islamists studying in madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who travelled to the war-torn country to join the most extreme jihadist terrorist groups in the world.

In later stages, the ISKP recruited urban middle-class Muslims, specifically targeting the universities to lure younger Muslims to join the terror network.

Since its inception, some ISKP fighters have travelled from Afghanistan to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and plot terror attacks on Western targets. It is estimated that the terrorist group has several thousand fighters across Afghanistan, but the terrorist group has suffered significant casualties in recent years.

ISKP is responsible for some of the worst terror attacks in recent years, including attacks on girls’ schools, hospitals where they had shot dead pregnant women and nurses. In March 2020, the terror group had attacked a Sikh religious complex in Kabul, killing 25 people. More than 30 people were gunned down a month later, mostly belonging to the ethnic Hazara community, by the ISKP fighters.

Islamic State’s ties with Taliban, Al-Qaeda

Interestingly, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has a tumultuous relationship with the Taliban and other affiliate terror groups. Both organisations compete against each other for recruit, funding sources and control over regions inside Afghanistan. However, each group has its own way of doing things.

Islamic State largely operates in the north, while the Taliban controls Afghanistan’s south and western region.

According to a report by the BBC, ISKP – a part of the global IS network, intends to wage ‘Jihad’ against non-believers to establish a global Islamic state, unlike the Taliban, which intends to govern Afghanistan under a Sharia framework. The leaders of the Islamic State in Afghanistan had rejected the Taliban takeover of the country, claiming that their version of Islamic rule is not hard-line enough.

While there is stiff competition, there is also some sort of coordination between the two groups when they intend to take on a common enemy.

ISKP has established links with the Taliban through the Haqqani network, which in turn has close ties with foreign Islamic terrorist groups, including deep associations with Al Qaeda. Experts believe that the Taliban’s affiliate Haqqani network and ISKP have coordinated several major attacks in the last few years with active support from other terrorist groups based in Pakistan.

However, ISKP has been critical against the Taliban for its peace talks with the United States, including the Qatar negotiations that paved the way for the US to pull out its troops from Afghanistan. The ISKP maintains a ‘more Islamic than thou’ approach with the Taliban and is not a party to the Qatar talks.

With the Taliban taking control over the war-torn country, the ISKP has now found more impetus to carry out attacks on the remaining US forces operating inside Afghanistan. After the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15, the Jihadist fighters had released dozens of terrorists lodged in the Pul-e-Charki jail, most of them were ISKP terrorists and former Taliban members.

The Islamic State Khorasan Province also has strong ties with Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that is behind the September 11, 2001, attacks.

ISKP and its influence on India:

The ISKP, a global Islamic Caliphate that intends to capture more lands east of Afghanistan, is a major security threat to India. The ISKP has already been successful at radicalising Muslim youths in the country.

Several Indian Muslims, especially from the southern state of Kerala, has travelled to Afghanistan to join the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). However, the Indian security establishment has managed to unearth several ISKP terrorists operating on Indian soil over the last two years.

In August last year, the NIA had arrested one Abdur Rahman, an ophthalmologist working in Bengaluru, for his links with Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). The arrest had come after the NIA had nabbed a Kashmiri couple Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife, Hina Bashir Beigh, from Delhi. The couple were linked to ISIS was accused of motivating Muslims to unite against CAA and carry out terror strikes inside the country.

In March 2020, the Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police had uncovered a massive plot to replicate the Colombo-style Jihadist attacks in Delhi by a module of Islamic-State Khorasan Province (ISKP). Five ISKP terrorists – Jahanzaib Sami, Hina Bashir, Abdullah Basith, Sadiya Anwar Shaikh and Nabeel Siddick Khatri, were arrested by the Delhi Police.

In June 2016, four couples left Kerala for Afghanistan to wage war against the US forces in ISIS-controlled Khorasan Province. The women were identified as Nimisha Fathima alias Fathima, Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam, and Raffaela. After their husbands were killed, they surrendered before the Afghan government in 2019. They had expressed the desire to return to India.

 

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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