JALALABAD: Security forces have “obliterated” fighters of the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday, hours after a prisoner swap with Taliban insurgents raised hopes of a lull in violence in the country.
More than 600 fighters from IS, locally known as Daesh, have surrendered with their families to the Afghan government in past weeks. Officials said air strikes by Afghan and coalition forces, lack of funds and low morale have forced the group to give up.
“No one believed one year ago that we would stand up and today be saying we have obliterated Daesh,” Ghani told a gathering of elders and officials in Jalalabad, the main city of eastern Nangarhar province that saw a wave of suicide attacks in past years claimed by the jihadists.
“Now that Daesh militants have surrendered, I ask authorities to treat their families humanely,” Ghani added.
The government said among fighters in its custody are foreign nationals from Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Maldives.
However, the Afghan Taliban, which has been battling IS and the government for control of the country, disputed that.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s official spokesman, described Ghani’s announcement as “absurd”.
“Kabul admin had 0% role in defeat of Daesh and the proud people of Nangarhar are witnesses,” he tweeted.
The Taliban controls more territory than at any point since the US invasion in 2001, including sections of Nangarhar province.