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Villagers Detail Harrowing IS Atrocities In Eastern Afghanistan

Grab from a video that shows militants loyal to the Islamic State (IS) militants blowing up bound and blindfolded Afghan prisoners with explosives.

ACHIN, Afghanistan -- Everyone in this remote corner of eastern Afghanistan has harrowing memories of atrocities by the Islamic State (IS) militants who are still fighting to capture their homeland.

Most of the estimated 100,000 residents of the remote mountainous Achin district of eastern Nangarhar Province have experienced some violence or oppression at the hands of IS. The radical jihadist group has already distinguished itself by practicing extreme violence across the large swathes of Syria and Iraq that it controls.

The group now seems intent on implementing the same strategy in Afghanistan.

"Why is Daesh so cruel?" asked 9-year-old Shalahuddin. His shopkeeper father, Younas, was one of the eight Afghans killed by IS in Achin.

Afghans were shocked by an IS video in early August that apparently showed IS militants blowing up bound and blindfolded Afghan prisoners. Younas was one of the victims. Even the Afghan Taliban condemned the video, called the killings "un-Islamic" and "brutal."

"My father was innocent. He was not associated with the Taliban or the government and was completely innocent," Shalahuddin said between sobs.

He recounted that after the arrival of IS in their remote village earlier in the summer, the militants first ransacked their shop and took away their livestock. "Our father was then taken during the month of Ramadan [in June and July]."

Salahuddin, his crippled brother, and sick mother soon left their village, and they now live in a tent near the district capital, Sra Kala. "We live in a tent on a desolate plain, and until the arrival of the current district governor, the government didn’t seem to care about our suffering," he said.

Seven-year-old Ghuncha Gul knows who killed his father, Mohammad, but he is not sure why. "Daesh forced my father to sit on bombs, but he was innocent," he said.

Horrific murders, ransacked homes, and displaced civilians are all that IS left behind in Achin after it was forced out from many populated parts of the district in an ongoing Afghan military offensive.

Zorarwar Jana’s story best illustrates the agony felt by hundreds of Achin mothers after militants butchered their children. Her son Ihsanullah was one of the eight Afghans depicted in the shocking IS video.

"They took away two of my sons [this summer] and blew one of them up," she said. "We were able to secure the release of his brother by paying them money, but he experienced horrific torture and was constantly threatened with being blown up while in captivity."

Before fainting because of extreme sorrow, Jana said, " No Muslim can even comprehend such acts."

Achin resident Eid Gul says the IS atrocities amounted to a systemic effort to subjugate the local population.

"They snatched our cars and took away our cattle. Even recently they took away seven herds of goats from one village," he said. "They even butchered our children, and [in many villages] the dead are laying in the streets, mutilated."

Abdul Saboor, a medical doctor in charge of government healthcare services in Achin, said militants have closed five clinics in the district, forcing residents to seek treatment at the one remaining clinic. "People are facing huge problems because of this. In addition, a large number of people have been displaced, which just causes more misery."

IS also closed most of the schools in Achin, but district Governor Haji Ghalib Mujahid is adamant that suffering will prompt residents to help the government forces in getting rid of the IS militants, most of whom come from neighboring Pakistan.

"Inshallah (God willing), we have enough police and army here, and we will be able to defeat Daesh," he said. "I am mobilizing the local tribes to defeat these militants."

Afghan forces claim to have killed hundreds of IS fighters in a three-week-old offensive focused on Achin and neighboring Batikot districts.

This has given Achin residents some hope. Tribal leader Khairuddin said the government was blind to their suffering for a long time but that they are now seeing some change.

"We now see some improvement and are hoping for the best," he said.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Shah Mahmood Shinwari's reporting from Achin, Afghanistan.

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, the editor of RFE/RL's Gandhara website, is a journalist specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan.