The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for a mortar attack on Kabul's diplomatic quarter and the presidential palace on the morning of Tuesday, August 21 (local time) - the first day of Eid Al-Adha. The attack, launched by nine militants, reportedly left at least six people wounded; security forces engaged the insurgents in clashes which lasted until around noon, killing four of them and forcing the remaining five to surrender. Large portions of the capital were put under the strict surveillance of security forces, which blocked roads and placed areas of the city on lockdown.
The IS-claimed attack came after Taliban fighters reportedly rejected an Eid Al-Adha ceasefire deal offered by the Afghan government on Monday, August 20, promising to continue attacks on Afghan and NATO forces. The rebuff also comes amid ongoing negotiations over the release of more than 20 Afghan police officers and soldiers held hostage by the Taliban after their fighters ambushed a Kabul-bound bus in Kunduz province on Monday. In total, the militant group abducted some 200 people in the attack, of whom over 160 have since been released. Additional IS and Taliban attacks on security forces and government installations are possible in the abovementioned areas and elsewhere in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.
This latest IS-claimed attack in Kabul notably comes after IS militants killed at least 48 people and wounded 67 others in a body-borne improvised explosive device (BBIED) attack at an educational facility in western Kabul on August 15.
Afghanistan has also experienced a series of Taliban attacks - notably in Faryab, Baghlan, and Ghazni provinces - in recent weeks ahead of expected peace negotiations between Taliban fighters and the Afghan government. The multi-day Taliban assault on the city of Ghazni, while repelled on August 14, was likely intended to show the strength of Taliban capabilities in battle near Kabul, and therefore strengthen their position vis-à-vis the government in potential negotiations. These incidents have also threatened to undermine the perceived capacity of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and the Afghan government more broadly, to adequately provide security in the wake of the withdrawal of most US-led NATO forces from the country in 2014 and ahead of parliamentary and district elections scheduled in October of this year.
Individuals in Afghanistan, and particularly those in Kabul, are advised to monitor developments to the situation and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments. The security environment in Afghanistan remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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