Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province

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Not to be confused with Khorasan Province or Khorasan group.
Khorasan Province
ولاية خراسان (Wilayah Khorasan)
Participant in the War in North-West Pakistan and the War in Afghanistan
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg

The Black Standard of ISIL.
Active 26 January 2015[1]–present
Ideology Salafist Islamism
Salafist Jihadism
Leaders Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Leader of ISIL), Hafiz Saeed Khan 
Area of operations Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh.
Strength 600–800[2] (April 2017)
Part of  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Merger of Defectors from Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and other factions who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State
Allies Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
Jundallah (Pakistan)
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (from August 2014 to March 2015)
Opponents State opponents

Non-state opponents

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (Arabic: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام – ولاية خراسان‎‎, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām – Wilayah Khorasan), or ISIL-KP,[6] is a branch of the militant Islamist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some media sources also use ISK, ISISK, or ISIS-K in referring to the group. The Khorasan group’s area of operations also includes other parts of South Asia,[7][8][9] such as India where individuals have pledged allegiance to it.[10][11]

ISIL announced the group’s formation in January 2015 and appointed former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant Hafiz Saeed Khan as its leader, with former Afghan Taliban commander Abdul Rauf Aliza appointed as deputy leader. Aliza was killed in a U.S. drone strike in February 2015,[12] while Khan was killed in a U.S. airstrike in July 2016.[13] Its current leader is unknown.

Background[edit source]

Around September 2014, ISIL sent representatives to Pakistan to meet with local militants, including some Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) factions, following several months of discussions.[14] At the same time, leaflets, flags and propaganda materials in support of ISIL began being distributed in parts of Pakistan, including a pamphlet written in Pashto and Dari that called on all Muslims to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The leaflets were believed to have been produced and distributed from across the border in Afghanistan.[15] In October 2014, former Taliban commander Abdul Rauf Khadim visited Iraq, later returning to Afghanistan where he recruited followers in Helmand and Farah provinces.[16] In the same month, 6 TTP commanders in Pakistan; Hafiz Khan Saeed, official spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, and the TTP commanders of Kurram and Khyber tribal regions and Peshawar and Hangu Districts, publicly defected from the TTP and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[17][18]

On 10 January 2015, these six individuals appeared in a video where they again pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi and nominated Hafiz Saeed Khan as the leader of their group. They were joined by other mid-level militant commanders, including representatives from Afghanistan’s Logar and Kunar Province and Pakistan’s Lakki Marwat. Shahidullah Shahid claimed that other Jihadists from both countries supported the pledge of allegiance but had been unable to attend the meeting in person.[18][19]

History[edit source]

On 26 January 2015, ISIL’s official spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani released an audio statement in which he accepted the earlier pledge of allegiance and announced the expansion of ISIL’s caliphate with the creation of Wilayat Khorasan (Khurasan Province), a historical region incorporating parts of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hafiz Khan Saeed was appointed as its local leader, or Wāli (Governor).[20][21] Abdul Rauf was named as Khan’s deputy, however he was killed by a US drone strike in Afghanistan several weeks later.[22]

ISIL fighters in Afghanistan, with their commander, Abu Rashid in the middle, during a documentary by Al Jazeera and Euronews, inside their territory.

ISIL began actively recruiting defectors from the Taliban, particularly among those who were disgruntled with their leaders or lack of battlefield success. This prompted senior Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour to write a letter addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, asking for the recruitment in Afghanistan to stop and arguing that the war in Afghanistan should be under the Taliban leadership.[23] Nevertheless, fighting between the two groups broke out in Nangarhar Province, and by June 2015 ISIL had been able to seize territory in Afghanistan for the first time.[24] After successfully driving the Taliban out of several districts of Nangarhar after months of clashes, the group started carrying out their first attacks against Afghan forces in the province.[25]Khorasan Province also developed a presence in other provinces, including Helmand and Farah.[26] In late 2015, ISIL began broadcasting Pashto language radio in Nangarhar Province,[27] later adding content in Dari.[28]

The group was boosted in August 2015 when the Afghanistan-based militant group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), pledged allegiance to ISIL and declared they were now members of Wilayah Khorasan.[29] Clashes broke out between the IMU and the Taliban in Zabul province following this pledge. The Taliban launched an offensive against the Uzbeks, causing heavy casualties and eliminating its presence in the province by the end of the year.[30][31] The Taliban also succeeded in dislodging ISIL from Farah province over the same period.[4]

The group suffered further reversals in 2016, losing control of much of its territory in Nangarhar province. It was driven out of Achin and Shinwar Districts following a military operation by Afghan Security Forces,[32] while clashes with the Taliban led to them being driven out of Batikot and Chaparhar districts.[4] Following the loosening of targeting restrictions by US Forces in Afghanistan earlier in the year, the US Air Force began conducting scores of air strikes against ISIL targets.[33] In April 2016 the Taliban reported that a number of senior and mid-level leaders of Wilayah Khorasan in Nangarhar Province had defected from ISIL and pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour. The defectors included members of the group’s central council, judicial council, and prisoners council, as well as several field commanders and their fighters.[34]

As of this time,[when?] they control several districts in southeast Afghanistan, with cells ambushing Afghan government forces, local warlords and Taliban patrols while avoiding open warfare. They have ambushed and killed several Red Crescent staff and Afghan Police and tribal militia in an ambush.[35]

April 2017 MOAB Airstrike[edit source]

On 13 April 2017, a GBU43/B MOAB was dropped in an airstrike on a cave complex in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. It was the first use of the bomb on the battlefield.[36][37][38] The Afghan defence ministry reported it to have killed over 36 militants and destroyed the tunnel complex including a cache of weapons. No civilian casualties were reported.[39]

Analysis[edit source]

According to a UN report, up to 70 ISIL fighters arrived from Iraq and Syria to form the core of the group in Afghanistan.[16] Alongside foreign fighters from Pakistan and Uzbekistan, most of the group’s membership growth has come from recruiting Afghan defectors from the Taliban.[24] US General Sean Swindell told the BBC that members of Khorasan Province are in contact with ISIL’s central leadership in Syria, although the exact relationship between the two is unclear.[40]

While the group has managed to establish a foothold in Afghanistan, it has had less success in Pakistan, largely carrying out isolated, small scale attacks.[41]

Claimed and alleged attacks[edit source]

Date Attack Location Notes Deaths Injured
18 April 2015 Jalalabad suicide bombing Jalalabad, Afghanistan A suicide bomber detonated outside a bank in Jalalabad, killing dozens. First major ISIL Khorasan attack in Afghanistan. 33 100
13 May 2015 2015 Karachi bus shooting Karachi, Pakistan A group of 8 gunmen attacked a bus in Karachi, killing more than 40 people. Claim disputed. Would be first ISIL Khorasan attack in Pakistan if accurate. 45+ Dozens
20 June 2016 Kabul attack on Canadian Embassy guards Kabul, Afghanistan A suicide bomber targeted a convoy of Canadian embassy security guards. Both ISIL and the Taliban claimed responsibility. At least 14 9
23 July 2016 July 2016 Kabul bombing Kabul, Afghanistan Two suicide bombers blew themselves up during a protest by the Hazara ethnic minority, killing 80 in Kabul’s deadliest attack since 2001 80+ 260
8 August 2016 August 2016 Quetta attacks Quetta, Pakistan Multiple attackers carried out a suicide bombing and shooting at a government hospital where lawyers were gathered. (Also claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar)[42] 94 130+
24 October 2016 Charsadda, Pakistan An intelligence officer was shot dead. The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State group in a short statement posted on Amaq.[43] 1 0
24 October 2016 October 2016 Quetta attacks Quetta, Pakistan Three heavily armed terrorists carried out mass shooting at police cadets at the Quetta Police Training College while they were asleep. One terrorist killed during operation, while other two blew themselves up, killing 61 cadets. (Also claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi)[44][45][46] 61 160+
26 October 2016 October 2016 Ghor killings Ghor Province, Afghanistan Fighters killed at least 30 civilians after abducting them in the remote Afghan province of Ghor.[47] 30 0
26 October 2016 October 2016 Jalalabad attack Jalalabad, Afghanistan An Islamic State suicide bomber killed a number of Afghan tribal elders.[48] 4-15 25
4 November 2016 November 2016 Ghor killings Ghor Province, Afghanistan Islamic State executed 31 civilians in Ghor Province.[49] 31 0
5 November 2016 November 2016 Ghor kidnapping Ghor Province, Afghanistan Islamic State abducted at least 6 civilians in Ghor province.[49] 0 6 kidnapped
12 November 2016 2016 Khuzdar bombing Khuzdar, Pakistan At least 55 people including women and children were killed and over 100 injured when a suicide bomber went off in the crowded Shah Noorani Shrine in Hub town, Lasbela District, Balochistan, Pakistan.[50] 55 (+1) 102+
16 November 2016 November 2016 Kabul bombing Kabul, Afghanistan A suicide bomber blew himself up in a convoy with members of the Afghan National Security Forces, near the Defence ministry. At least four people were killed and eleven others injured.[51] 6 (+1) 15
21 November 2016 November 2016 Kabul suicide bombing Kabul, Afghanistan At least 32 people were killed and over 80 were injured in a suicide bombing at a Kabul Shia mosque “Baqir-ul-Olum”.[52] 30 (+1) 15
25 November 2016 November 2016 Jalalabad bombings Jalalabad, Afghanistan Multiple bombs killed at least 6 people and injured 27 others. The explosions occurred in Jalalabad city.[53] 6 27
10 December 2016 Peshawar, Pakistan The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for killing a counterterrorism police officer and wounding his young son in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.[54] 1 1
7 February 2017 February 2017 Afghanistan’s Supreme Court in Kabul attack Kabul, Afghanistan 22 people were killed and 41 wounded in a suicide blast at Afghanistan’s Supreme Court in Kabul.[55] The Islamic State claimed responsibility.[56] 22 41
8 February 2017 Qushtipa, Afghanistan The Islamic State killed six local employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross.[56] 6 2 missing
16 February 2017 2017 Sehwan suicide bombing Sehwan, Pakistan A suicide bombing at a popular shrine in southern Pakistan killed at least 88 people and wounded over 250.[57] 88 250
8 March 2017 March 2017 Kabul attack Kabul, Afghanistan A group of gunmen dressed in white hospital robes attacked the Sardar Daud Khan Hospital. At least 49 people were killed in the hours-long assault, while 63 others were injured.[58] 49 63

Designation as a terrorist organization[edit source]

Country Date References
 United States 29 September 2015 [6]

See also[edit source]

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