Afghan Taleban denounce 'brutal' ISIS execution video

Gul Dali (right) the district leader of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), sitting with colleagues and his family at an undisclosed location in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on July 30, 2015.
Gul Dali (right) the district leader of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), sitting with colleagues and his family at an undisclosed location in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on July 30, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

KABUL (AFP) - The Taleban have condemned a "horrific" video that appears to show fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group blowing up bound and blindfolded Afghan prisoners with explosives, spotlighting the growing rivalry between the militant networks.

ISIS insurgents have been making gradual inroads into Afghanistan, challenging the Taleban on their home turf at a time when an increasingly bitter power transition is roiling the Afghan militant movement.

The Taleban have themselves often been accused of savagery during their 14-year insurgency against the US-backed Afghan government but they were blunt in their condemnation of the new ISIS video.

"A horrific video... (shows) kidnappers who associate themselves with Daesh (IS) brutally martyring several white-bearded tribal elders and villagers with explosives," the Taleban said in a statement Tuesday.

The video, more than four minutes long, appeared on jihadi social media forums on Sunday and contained commentary in Arabic and Pashto.

Apparently shot in Afghanistan's restive east against the backdrop of hilly grasslands enveloped with fog, it describes the prisoners as "apostates" aligned with the Taleban or the Afghan government.

But the Taleban described them as "innocent civilians".

"This un-Islamic act... can never be justified," their statement said.

"This offence and other such brutal actions by a few irresponsible ignorant individuals under the guise of Islam and Muslims are intolerable."

The Taleban are blamed for the vast majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan as the country battles a growing wave of insurgent attacks following the announcement of the death of longtime Taleban leader Mullah Omar.

Even before news of his death the group suffered a string of defections to ISIS, with some insurgents voicing disaffection with the man described as a "ghost leader" - he had not been seen in public since the Taleban were toppled from power in 2001.

- 'Taleban's number one enemy' -

The announcement of Omar's death, observers say, could be a very effective recruitment tool for ISIS, potentially helping it lure more Taleban turncoats in a region where it is still struggling to gain ground.

The Taleban warned ISIS recently against expanding in the region, but this has not stopped some fighters swearing allegiance to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"Right now the Taleban's number one enemy is IS," Kabul-based military analyst Atiqullah Amarkhil told AFP, referring to the other name for ISIS.

"With (Tuesday's) condemnation the Taleban want to project themselves as a legitimate group waging an Islamic war - and ISIS are a foreign phenomenon trying to weaken Islam. But the Taleban's crimes are not hidden from the Afghan people."

Experts say the gravitational pull of ISIS, renowned among jihadists for establishing an Islamic "caliphate" across a swathe of Syria and Iraq, is only likely to grow amid a bitter power struggle within the Taleban.

Some top leaders including Omar's son and brother have refused to pledge allegiance to new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, saying the process to select him was rushed and even biased.

Tayeb Agha, the head of the Taleban's Qatar political office set up in 2013 to ease talks with Kabul, resigned last week in protest at Mansour's appointment and two more members of the office followed suit.