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Pakistan: IS-KP Advances In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Analysis

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By Giriraj Bhattacharjee*

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On August 30, 2022, one Frontier Constabulary (FC) trooper was killed and another critically injured in an explosion in the Yusuf Abad area of Bajaur District. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) later claimed responsibility for the incident. 

On August 29, 2022, suspected IS-KP terrorists killed a Police constable and two construction workers in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai District.

On August 19, 2022, two policemen, Havaldar Saeed Ahmad and Sepoy Inayatur Rahman, were killed in an explosion near a check post in Bajaur District. 

On July 16, 2022, IS-KP militants attacked and killed two persons, including a policeman, at a check post in the Arjali Nadi locality of Bara in Khyber District.

On May 15, 2022, IS-KP cadres killed two Sikh traders, Kuljeet Singh and Ranjit Singh, in Peshawar city.

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On March 4, 2022, 63 worshippers lost their lives and another 194 were injured, when an IS-KP suicide attacker, Jalaybib Kabuli, blew himself up inside a Shia Mosque in the Koocha Risaldar area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), IS-KP has killed at least 76 persons (71civilians and five SF personnel) in nine attacks in KP in the current year, thus far (data till September 4, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, the outfit had killed one person (civilian) in one attack. Since October 24, 2016 when the first IS-KP-linked attack was reported in the province, a total of 24 IS-KP attacks, resulting in 131 deaths (122 civilians and nine SF personnel), have been reported. On October 24, 2016, IS-KP terrorists shot dead a police officer, Akbar Ali, at a bus stop near his home in the Sardaryab area of Charsadda District. The deceased was killed when he was on his way to work in Peshawar. 

Some of the significant attacks prior to 2022 included:  

December 19, 2021: Two persons were killed and three were injured during a shooting incident at a polling station in the Takht-e-Nasarati tehsilof Karak District. 

October 27,2020: At least eight people were killed and over 125 injured after an explosive device in a bag was detonated inside a madrassa in the Dir Colony of Peshawar city.

November 23, 2018: At least 33 people were killed and 56 were injured in a suicide bombing by IS-KP in Kalaya, Orakzai District.

On the other hand, the Security Forces (SFs), during this period (October 24, 2016 and September 4, 2022), have killed at least 30 IS-KP terrorists. The prominent incidents included the following:

August 22, 2022: SFs killed an IS-KP ‘commander’, Hayat Muhammad aka Salman, in a mountainous area in Inzaray, between the Lower Dir and Bajaur Districts of KP. 

July 2, 2022: At least three local IS-KP ‘commanders’ were killed in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in Ghulam Khan Kalay in North Waziristan District.

May 14, 2022: An IS-KP ‘commander’, Hassan Shah, was killed along with a suicide bomber in an early morning raid, in the Wali Abad area of Pishtakhara in Peshawar. The IBO was carried out by the Counter-Terrorism Department over the reported presence of the IS-KP ‘commander’, along with a suicide bomber, in the Wali Abad area.

June 24, 2017: IS-KP ‘chief’ for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Muhammad Arif and one of his associates were killed by SFs at Arsalan Flour Mills located on Dalazak Road, Peshawar. 

At the end of 2014, some prominent leaders of a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) pledged bayah (allegiance) to IS-Central’s then Amir (chief) Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi. Those who pledged allegiance to the IS included the then TTP ‘spokesperson’ Shahidullah Shahid; Kurram Agency ‘chief’ Hafiz Quran Dolat; Khyber Agency ‘chief’ Gul Zaman; Peshawar ‘chief’ Mufti Hassan; Hangu ‘chief’ Khalid Mansoor; and Orakzai Agency ‘commander’ Hafiz Saeed Khan. Soon after, this group had to shift to the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, as did most terrorist groups operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan, under pressure from Pakistani SFs’ Operation Zarb-e-Azb, followed by Operations Khyber 1 and Khyber 2. On January 26, 2015, IS-KP was officially announced with a twelve-member shura (governing council) consisting of nine Pakistanis, two Afghans, and one person of unknown origin. Later, in May 2019, a separate chapter for Pakistan – Islamic State Pakistan Province (IS-PP) – was established. 

However, on July 2021, IS-PP Wali (spiritual leader) Abu Mahmood notified an order, based on the direction of IS-Central, stating the Mujahedeen based in North and South Waziristan, Mohmand, Bajaur, Kohat, Khyber, Dir, Peshawar, Orakzai, Kurram and the bordering areas, were merged with IS-KP. He added that these Mujahedeen should act according to the directions of the Wali of IS-KP

There was a surge in IS-KP attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after July 2021.  

Indeed, IS-KP has emerged as the biggest threat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, 2021. Since August 16, 2021, the province has recorded 128 civilian fatalities, of which 88 were attributable to one or other terrorist group (data till September 4, 2022). Of the 88 attributable kills, IS-KP was found responsible for 79 civilian deaths, TTP for seven deaths, and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur (HGB) group for two. Similarly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 157 SF fatalities during this period, of which 93 were attributable; of these, IS-KP was found responsible for nine SF deaths, HGB for 25, TTP for 52, and Ittehad Musallah Islami Mujahideen (IMAM) for seven. 

Abdul Sayed a Sweden-based researcher on jihadi groups active in Afghanistan-Pakistan, noted, on March 11, 2022, 

There is information suggesting [IS-KP] members have fled Afghanistan for Pakistan because of their fear for the Taliban. The main strategy appears to be that [IS-KP] wants to undermine the value of the TTP’s terror in its main target area. 

Meanwhile, on January 22, 2022, Moazzam Jah Ansari, Inspector General of Police, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, expressed concern: “I see IS-K [IS-KP] as a bigger threat to peace and security in the province compared to the TTP in near future.”

Worse, the fate of the ongoing TTP talks with the Pakistan Government is likely to influence the future growth of IS-KP in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On Jul 20, 2022, Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) Director Muhammad Amir Rana in a paper “Pakistan’s peace talks with TTP: Prospective outcome and implications”, wrote,

…the peace talks will create divide among the ranks and files of the TTP. Even if the talks succeed, the hardliners may not accept it and join more radical groups like Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-KP).

IS-KP’s presence and violence are intended to proclaim its supremacy, further complicating the terrorism landscape in Pakistan’s most restive province, reeling under attacks by multiple terrorist formations. The rising violence compounds the pressure on a country already staggering under an intense economic crisis and multiple natural disasters. The rising burdens of economic stresses and the necessity of increasing resources and personnel for relief and rehabilitation, compete with the escalating demands created by the terrorist violence that engulfs the region.

*Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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