Taliban security forces in Afghanistan have raided an Islamic State “hideout” in the capital, Kabul, and killed several members of the militant group, according to officials.
The Monday night counterterrorism action came a week after Saudi Arabia evacuated all its diplomats and embassy staff in the country reportedly citing security concerns.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced a few details of the raid in the Kart-e-Now residential area shortly after it was carried out. But he has since not shared new information.
Mujahid claimed the operation had swiftly killed “some key Daesh members, including foreigners." He used a local name for the Afghan branch of the terrorist group, known as Islamic State-Khorasan or IS-K.
“This was an important Daesh group hideout, which was involved in the recent attacks and crimes in Kabul,” the Taliban spokesman said. It was not possible to verify the claims independently.
IS-K has staged several high-profile deadly bomb attacks and other raids in Afghanistan in recent months, targeting embassies of both Russia and Pakistan and a Chinese-run hotel in downtown Kabul.
Earlier this month, some 19 Saudi diplomats and other embassy staff were airlifted from the country amid reports IS-K was planning a possible truck bombing against foreign missions in Kabul, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the matter.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid insisted at the time the Saudi departure was a temporary move and not related to security concerns. He told Afghan media “some employees of Saudi Arabia’s embassy have departed for training and will return soon.”
It is not immediately known whether Saudi diplomats have since returned to Kabul nor has Riyadh commented on the status of its Afghan diplomatic mission or the supposed threat facing it.
An IS-K suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Russian embassy last September, killing two staff and four Afghan visa-seekers. Later in December, the chief Pakistani diplomat narrowly survived an assassination attempt by a gunman allegedly from the terror group. That attack came just days before two alleged IS-K gunmen raided and injured five Chinese guests at the hotel in Kabul.
The Taliban have lately enhanced the security of embassies and repeatedly dismissed the threat posed by IS-K, saying their forces have significantly degraded the group's presence in the country.
The United States continues to question Taliban claims, however. Washington sees IS-K as a “dangerous” Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan.
“We've seen the lethality of ISIS-K,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Monday, using an acronym for the Afghan branch of the terror group.
“President Biden has made a solemn commitment to remain focused on ISIS-K and, if necessary, to take action against it if we see plots emanate that are targeting the United States and our partners,” Price said.
Most countries, including the United States, closed their embassies in Afghanistan in August 2021 when the Taliban seized power from the internationally backed government after a 20-year insurgency as American and NATO troops withdrew from the war-torn South Asian nation.
Foreign governments have not formally recognized the Taliban government, citing human rights and terrorism-related concerns.
While Western nations and many others relocated their embassies to Qatar’s capital, Doha, after the Taliban takeover, several regional countries retained their diplomatic missions in Kabul. They include China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.