SURKH DEWAL (Afghanistan) • Fighters loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have seized substantial territory in Afghanistan for the first time, witnesses and officials said, wresting areas in the east from rival Taleban insurgents in a new threat to stability.
Witnesses who fled fighting in Nangarhar province said that hundreds of insurgents pledging allegiance to ISIS had pushed out the Taleban, scorching opium poppy fields that help to fund the Taleban's campaign to overthrow the Afghan government.
They also distributed directives purportedly from ISIS' Middle East-based chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, although it was not clear whether he issued them for the Afghan theatre or whether previous edicts had been translated.
"They (ISIS loyalists) came in on many white pickup trucks mounted with big machine guns and fought the Taleban. The Taleban could not resist and fled," said Haji Abdul Jan, a tribal elder from Achin district.
Local officials said fighters loyal to ISIS have seized some territory from the Taleban in at least six of Nangarhar's 21 districts. They are Kot, Achin, Deh Bala, Naziyan, Rodat and Chaparhar, according to provincial council chief Ahmad Ali Hazrat and Nangarhar member of parliament Haji Hazrat Ali.