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Afghan IS Commander 'Pressured' Wife To Become Suicide Bomber

Members of the Afghan security forces take position during an operation against the Islamic State in Khot district of Nangarhar Province, on July 26.
Members of the Afghan security forces take position during an operation against the Islamic State in Khot district of Nangarhar Province, on July 26.

An Afghan woman has surrendered to police claiming that her husband, a local commander for the militant group Islamic State, (IS) was pressuring her to carry out a suicide bombing, officials said.

The woman, whose name has not been revealed, turned herself in on August 16 in the northern province of Jowzjan, along the border with Turkmenistan.

The case underscores the ongoing threat from militants in Afghanistan, where IS fighters appear to have been building a presence for more than two years as they compete with the Taliban to spearhead antigovernment and anti-Western efforts.

IS devotees have claimed responsibility for a number of recent deadly attacks against Afghan civilians and security forces.

The would-be bomber reportedly remains in custody, and the details of the case were provided to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan by Afghan authorities.

They say her husband, Qari Zia, is a former Taliban commander from Jowzjan Province who crossed over to IS and is now based in the extremists' stronghold of Nangarhar, in eastern Afghanistan.

"Qari Zia...encouraged his wife to carry out a suicide attack," said Rahmatullah Turkistani, the police commander of Jowzjan Province. "He wanted his wife to come to Nangarhar to receive training in preparation for a suicide attack."

Turkistani said the woman was traveling to Nangarhar when she surrendered to security forces in Jowzjan's provincial capital, Sheberghan. She is being held in a women's shelter in the city while police investigate her claims.

The police commander said Zia had repeatedly telephoned his wife to urge her to go to Nangarhar's provincial capital, Jalalabad, where authorities believe he is hiding.

"She said her husband pressured her but she didn't want to be a suicide bomber and she wanted to surrender to the government," said Najiba Quraishi, the head of the provincial department of women's affairs in Jowzjan, who has interviewed the woman.

Quraishi added that the woman was 32 years old and had been married to Zia for three years, during which time he had constantly pressured her to carry out a suicide bombing.

IS Threat

The case comes one week after police detained Mawlawi Baz Mohammad, the shadow IS governor of Jowzjan, in a security operation in Qush Tepa district. Officials have said the militants' ranks include members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a primarily Uzbek group known by Afghans as Jundullah.

IS militants are mostly based in pockets of territory in the Nangarhar, Kunar, and Zabul provinces, along Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan. They have reportedly established recruitment and training camps in the region.

The group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing last month that tore through crowds of minority Shi'ite Hazara protesters in Kabul, killing more than 70 people in the deadliest attack in the capital since the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban and pursue Al-Qaeda's leadership in 2001.

In July, Afghan forces launched an offensive against IS fighters in the east of the country, backed by U.S. forces and air strikes. Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that the leader of IS in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed, was killed weeks ago in an American drone strike in Nangarhar.

Despite the blow, analysts say the IS threat in Afghanistan is far from over. U.S. military officials have said that there are between 1,500 and 3,000 IS-linked militants in the eastern region, most of them former Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters. The United States said last week that an estimated 300 IS fighters had been killed in July.

Written by Frud Bezhan based on reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Alem Rahmanyar in Jowzjan

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    Alem Rahmanyar

    Alem Rahmanyar is a correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.