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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - KABUL: Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said Wednesday it had busted a joint Daesh-Haqqani network cell it accused of carrying out several attacks, including a deadly raid on a Sikh temple in Kabul.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement that five militants were killed and eight others arrested when security forces stormed two hideouts of the group — one in Kabul and the other outside the capital.
“This joint cell of Daesh and Haqqani network had carried out major attacks in the capital, including an attack on a Sikh temple in March,” the NDS said.
At least 25 people were killed when gunmen stormed the temple in Kabul where worshippers were offering morning prayers.
The attack was claimed by Daesh in the Khorasan, the Afghan branch of Daesh.
The Daesh-Haqqani cell was also behind a rocket attack that targeted the swearing-in ceremony of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the intelligence agency said.
The members of the cell had also killed several Afghan officials and fired rockets at Bagram, the US military’s largest base in Afghanistan, the NDS said.
Afghan officials have long accused the Haqqani network, a US-designated terror group with ties to the Taliban, of carrying out major attacks claimed by or blamed on Daesh in Khorasan.
“There is undeniable evidence showing a strong link and cooperation between the Haqqani network and IS,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.
“They jointly plan and carry out terrorist attacks, especially in Kabul.”
Late last year, Afghan officials said IS-K had been completely defeated in Nangarhar, a key eastern province where it had first sought to establish a stronghold in 2015.
A senior security analyst said Afghanistan’s intelligence agents have long believed that the Haqqanis were either aiding Daesh in carrying out attacks or actually carrying out attacks in their name.
“If they are now caught side by side in the same trench as the NDS says... this could be an alarming development,” Atiqullah Amarkhail, a former Afghan army general turned security analyst told AFP.
“It may indicate that even if the Taliban one day agrees to reduce or end violence, the actual violence perpetrated by more radical groups like Daesh and Haqqanis may continue.”
The Taliban dismissed as “propaganda” the NDS statement that the Taliban-affiliated Haqqanis were working with Daesh.
“We strongly reject this propaganda. We have nothing in common (and don’t operate cells) with Daesh,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said in a text message to reporters.
The United States and Taliban signed a landmark deal in late February that lays the groundwork to end Afghanistan’s war.
American and other foreign forces pledged to quit Afghanistan within 14 months of the February 29 deal signing, provided the Taliban stick to several security guarantees and hold talks with the government.
A key tenet of the US-Taliban accord is that the Taliban will not allow groups like Al-Qaeda and IS-K to use Afghan soil to plan attacks against the US and its allies.
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