Afghan intelligence detains 26 IS members

Kabul: Afghanistan’s intelligence agency on Tuesday announced the arrest of 26 alleged members of the Islamic State terror group who were planning attacks in the capital during the upcoming festival of Muharram.

The two-day Islamic festival, also called Ashura, begins on Wednesday.

“Twenty-six members of the terrorist group including one of their group leaders, Abdullah, were detained in capital Kabul,” the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement cited by Efe news.

The arrests took place in the days leading up to the start of the religious festival, mainly observed by the Shia community, which in recent years has been targeted by the IS.

“These terrorists were detained over the past three days in Kabul,” NDS spokesperson Tasal Khan said, adding that they were currently under investigation for planning “attacks on Ashura ceremonies”.

Over the last two years, the terror group carried out dozens of attacks on mosques, religious and political gatherings as well as sports clubs and education centres of the Shia community, including an attack during Ashura in 2016, in which 18 people were killed.

Ashura brings together a large number of Shias in Afghanistan to commemorate the martyrdom in the seventh century of Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, which they observe by keeping a fast.

Repeated terror attacks against Shias have led the Afghan government to beef up security in Kabul in recent days, especially in regions that are home to the minority community.