The ISKP is a Salafi-Jihadist organisation and a UN-designated terrorist organisation with operational ties with local groups [Anti-government elements, 3]. Sources reported that ISKP regained strength in the first quarter of 2021, including through recruitment of disaffected Taliban members and continues to pose a threat to both Afghanistan and the wider region. The core group in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces reportedly retained around 1 500 to 2 200 fighters, while smaller autonomous groups were located in Badakhshan, Kunduz and Sar-e-Pul. It was reported that a 450-strong cell of ISKP was disrupted around Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh province, suggesting that the group may be stronger in northern Afghanistan than previously assessed [Security September 2021, 1.3.5, 2.5]. Incidents were also reported in other provinces, such as Ghor and Parwan [Security September 2021, 2.11, 2.29].
The group continued to conduct deliberate attacks against civilians, in particular against members of the Hazara ethnicity and Shia Muslim religious minority and against Sikhs. High-profile attacks in 2020, for example, targeted a maternity hospital, the Jalabad city prison, Kabul University. According to UNAMA, in 2020, ISKP caused 673 civilian casualties including 213 killed and 460 wounded, which represented a 45 % decrease compared to 2019. More than 80 % of civilian casualties attributed to ISKP in 2020 were caused by attacks deliberately targeting civilians, such as civilians at educational facilities and civilians belonging to religious minority populations such as Shia Muslims and Sikhs. The majority of the civilian casualties caused by ISKP were the result of ‘mass-casualty suicide attacks and mass-shootings in Kabul and Jalalabad’ [Security June 2021, 1.2.2; Anti-government elements, 3.5].
Targeted killings continued in 2021 and individuals assassinated by the group included humanitarian workers engaged in de-mining, female media workers and female doctors [Security September 2021, 2.4, 2.23]. The UN Secretary General reported an increase in attacks between 12 February and 15 May 2021 claimed by or attributed to ISKP - 88 compared to 16 during the same period in 2020, including targeted attacks on civilians in urban areas. Between 1 January and 30 June 2021, UNAMA recorded 439 casualties (124 killed and 315 injured) in ISKP claimed or attributed attacks [Security September 2021, 1.3.5]. The group retained its ability to carry out terrorist attacks in Kabul and other major cities. It claimed the attacks on the Kabul international airport in August 2021, which killed more than 170 and injured 200 others [Security September 2021, 1.1.3].
|For further information on human rights violations committed by the ISKP and their relevance as potential exclusion grounds, see 6. Exclusion.|