Last update: April 2022
The ISKP is a transnational Salafi-Jihadist organisation and a UN-designated terrorist organisation with operational ties with local groups [Anti-government elements, 3]. According to a November 2021 statement of Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UNAMA, ISKP became increasingly active, stepping up attacks from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021, and gained ground across all provinces. Another source stated that ISKP had a strong presence in eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar and Kunar provinces), as well as in Kabul and northern Afghanistan. However, ISKP was reported to have no territorial control in Afghanistan and the operational capacity of the group across the country remained unclear [Country Focus 2022, 3.1.1].
The number of ISKP militants in Afghanistan is estimated around 4 000. A relatively small but growing number of former members of Afghanistan’s intelligence service and elite military units has reportedly joined ISKP to resist the Taliban. ISKP was also reportedly ‘reaching out to tribes and other groups to recruit from their ranks while stamping out dissent among moderate Salafis’. There were also fears that ISKP could recruit Afghanistan-based foreign fighters from Central Asia and Pakistan, as well as disillusioned Taliban members in case of future rival factions within the group. Taliban raids against ISKP, arrests of ISKP members, and prevention of attacks have also been reported between September and November 2021. ISKP members reportedly surrendered to the Taliban in Nangarhar on several occasions in November 2021 [Country Focus 2022, 3.1.1].
ISKP has reportedly carried out a campaign of targeted killings since around the summer of 2020 and has continued since the Taliban takeover on a roughly comparable scale. ISKP is said to have used ‘the same hit-and-run tactics’ practiced until recently by the Taliban against the previous Afghan government, including roadside explosions and targeted killings. The security incidents were particularly reported in northern and southern provinces. Attacks were particularly reported to take place in Nangarhar province, defined as a ‘stronghold’ of ISKP, and its capital, Jalalabad [Country Focus 2022, 3.1.1].
The group also 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]. Other recent examples include a number of roadside bomb attacks targeting the Taliban in September and October 2021, resulting in civilian casualties. ISKP also claimed responsibility for incidents occurred in November 2021, for example, a number of car bombs explosions in Kabul and an attack on a military health facility in the same city. Five attackers, three Taliban guards and at least seven other people were killed in the latter assault [Country Focus 2022, 3.2].
On several instances, ISKP continued to target the Shia (Hazara) community. For example, on 8 October 2021, at least 72 people were reported to have been killed and 143 wounded after an ISKP suicide bomber carried out an attack on a mosque in Kunduz, used by Shia Muslim (Hazara) minority. On 15 October 2021, during Friday prayers, suicide bombers attacked a mosque in Kandahar, also used by the Hazara, killing 47 people and wounding at least 70. [Country Focus 2022, 3.2]
For further information on human rights violations committed by the ISKP and their relevance as potential exclusion grounds, see 6. Exclusion.
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