Islamic State fighters have moved to capture a giant cave stronghold from the Taliban that was once Osama bin Laden’s hideout back in the early 2000s, Afghan officials have said. The complex, called Tora Bora, still has strategic and symbolic importance.
Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) launched an assault on Tora Bora late on Tuesday night, Attahullah Khogyani, a provincial official in Nangarhar, told AP. Skirmishes with the Taliban and local villagers continued into the day, and the terrorist group had seized the vicinity around the mountain stronghold by Wednesday.
“I can confirm that the ISIS fighters occupied some areas around Tora Bora, but not Tora Bora itself,” said Khogyani. There has been no statement from the American command or the Kabul government so far.
At least 12 Taliban militants were killed in the firefight, Hazrat Ali, a Nangarhar lawmaker, confirmed. “Based on our information from local people, hundreds of Isis fighters attacked Taliban militants in Tora Bora,” Ali said.
IS has also taken control of many hilltops overlooking Tora Bora, and even installed heavy artillery on their summits, said Shirin Agha Faqiri, a spokesman for the Afghan army corps stationed in eastern Nangarhar.
“People and the local villagers are fleeing to other parts of the province,” he added.
Islamic State’s capture of the Tora Bora cave complex on Wednesday may be an important victory for the terrorist group in its fight against its Islamist rival, the Taliban.