‘IS active in Helmand’

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CAMP SHORABAK (Afghanistan): Afghan officials confirmed for the first time on Monday that the extremist Islamic State (IS) group is active in the south, recruiting fighters, flying black flags and, according to some sources, even battling the Taliban militants.

The sources, including an Afghan general and a provincial governor, said a man identified as Mullah Abdul Rauf was actively recruiting fighters for the IS group, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

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Gen Mahmood Khan, the deputy commander of the army’s 215 Corps, said that within the past week residents of a number of districts in the southern Helmand province had said Mullah Rauf’s representatives were fanning out across the province to recruit people.

“A number of tribal leaders, jihadi commanders and some ulema and other people have contacted me to tell me that Mullah Rauf had contacted them and invited them to join him,” Gen Khan said. But he said the Taliban militants, who are active across Helmand and control some districts, have warned people not to contact Mullah Rauf.

Mullah Rauf was a corps commander during the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, according to Amir Mohammad Akund­zada, the governor of Nimroz province neighbouring Helmand. The governor said he is related to Mullah Rauf but has not seen him for almost 20 years.

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