KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan security forces arrested eight members of a network grouping Islamic State and Haqqani militants responsible for bloody attacks in the capital including on Sikh worshippers, the country’s security agency said on Wednesday.
The arrests were made as special forces carried out a raid on a property in Kabul on Tuesday evening, seizing weapons and explosives and killing five members of the joint network.
The group was responsible for shootings of worshippers at a Sikh complex and at a large ceremony attended by many in the Hazara community, as well as rocket attacks on President Ashraf Ghani’s swearing-in ceremony and on Bagram airbase, the National Directorate of Security said in a statement.
Gunmen and suicide bombers raided a Sikh religious complex in Kabul in March, killing 25 people. That was the second attack on a minority group claimed by Islamic State in a month after more than 30 people were shot dead in a gathering attended by many members of the ethnic Hazara community marking the anniversary of the death of a Hazara leader.
Also in March, attackers fired rockets at Ghani’s inauguration ceremony and in April sent rockets into the Bagram airbase, though no one was killed in either attack.
The violence underscored the challenges to securing lasting peace in Afghanistan even after the United States signed a troop withdrawal agreement with the militant Taliban in February. The Islamist group has since held off on large-scale attacks on foreign forces or in major centres, though it has continued attacking Afghan security forces throughout the provinces.
Islamic State, which is not a party to the agreement and has fought the Taliban in the past, has a small presence in Afghanistan, largely in the north, though it has waged high profile attacks further south in the capital.
The militant Haqqani network, founded in the 1970s, is one of the most powerful and feared groups in the Afghan insurgency and has in the past had links to the Taliban.
Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Mark Heinrich