Taliban call Islamic State affiliate a ‘fake sect’

“We say to the nation that the seditious phenomenon called ISIS-K is no more today and that it is a false sect that spreads corruption in our Islamic country. It is forbidden to have any form of assistance or relationship with them,” the Taliban said. in a resolution on Saturday.

The resolution follows a three-day conference of religious leaders and elders in Kabul, according to Afghanistan’s official Bakthar news agency.

ISIS-K (the k stands for Khorasan, the name of a historical region that covered parts of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) has been operating in Afghanistan for a few years.

It is a branch of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – according to the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan political forum.

It has carried out numerous attacks against Afghan civilians and is believed to be responsible for thousands of deaths since its formation in 2015.

The Taliban resolution said that Afghanistan follows an Islamic system of government and that “armed opposition to this system is considered rebellion and corruption”.

He added that “any form of opposition to this system of Islamic government, which conflicts with Islamic Shariah and national interests, is corruption and illegal action.”

The connection between ISIS-K and its apparent parent group Islamic State is not entirely clear; affiliates share ideology and tactics, but the depth of their organizational and command-and-control relationship has never been fully established.

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US intelligence officials have previously told CNN that ISIS-K members include “a small number of veteran jihadists from Syria and other foreign terrorist fighters”, saying the US has identified 10 to 15 of their main agents in Afghanistan.

Its earliest members included Pakistani militants who emerged in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province a decade ago, many of whom had fled Pakistan and defected from other terror groups, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies ( CSIS).

Last year, counterterrorism analysts estimated its strength at around 1,500 to 2,000, but that number may have increased.

Calls for recognition

The Kabul rally of 3,000 participants – all men, according to state media – concluded on Saturday with a call for the international community to recognize the legitimacy of the Taliban-led Afghan government.

The United States and other countries hesitated to recognize the Taliban after their rapid takeover of the country in August 2021, just weeks after the start of the withdrawal of American troops.

Since then, the Taliban have imposed new restrictions on women, banning them from working in most sectors and requiring them to cover their faces in public and have a male guardian for long-distance travel. Girls were prevented from returning to secondary school.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned on Friday that “women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the largest and fastest setback in the enjoyment of their rights at all levels in decades. decades”. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the issue.

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An 11-point resolution issued at the end of the meeting called for the recognition and release of foreign aid, while pledging to “take useful measures in the direction of the realization of the national interests and the well-being being of the people and preventing poverty and unemployment,” Bakthar reported.

“We call on the United Nations and other international organizations, especially Islamic countries and organizations, to recognize the Islamic emirate as a legitimate system, to interact positively with it, to lift all sanctions against Afghanistan, to release the frozen funds of the Afghan nation and to promote the economic development and reconstruction of our nation,” the resolution reads, according to Bakhthar.

In the resolution, the Taliban also pledged allegiance to Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, the group’s reclusive supreme leader, whom it called “the leader of the people”.

In a rare speech at the rally, Akhundzada hailed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year as “a source of pride for Afghans but also for Muslims around the world”.

“Thank God we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) shouldn’t give us orders, it’s our system, and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.

Addressing clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to the application of Sharia, the legal system of Islam derived from the Koran, while expressing his opposition to the “non-believers’ way of life”.

The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia when in power led to dozens of violent punishments, including the stoning of suspected adulterers, public executions and amputations.

CNN’s Hannah Ritchie contributed reporting.

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