Afghan forces have arrested the leader of the country’s Islamic State group affiliate along with 19 other jihadists, authorities said Saturday.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement that Aslam Farooqi, also known as Abdullah Orakzai, had been arrested along with the other men in a “complex operation”.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an NDS official told AFP that Farooqi was the mastermind behind an IS-claimed attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul last month that killed at least 25 people.
Known as Islamic State in the Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghan IS branch has been on its back foot in recent months following continued operations by US forces and separately by the Taliban.
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In November, Afghan officials said IS-K had been completely defeated in Nangarhar, one of the key eastern provinces where they first sought to establish a stronghold in 2015.
In the years since, they have claimed responsibility for a string of horrific bombings across Afghanistan.
In its statement, the NDS said Farooqi had admitted to having links with “regional intelligence agencies” — a clear reference to Pakistan, which Afghanistan routinely blames for supporting jihadists and helping the Taliban.
Islamabad denies it does so.
US Forces-Afghanistan did not immediately respond to a query about Farooqi’s arrest.