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KABUL: Fighters of the militant Islamic State (IS) group attacked an Afghan army post in the eastern border province of Nangarhar, near Pakistan, late on Thursday and killed at least 18 soldiers, a local official said.

Ahmad Ali Hazrat, head of the provincial council, said the attack took place in the Deh Bala district of Nangarhar and killed about 18 soldiers manning an outpost. A security official, who declined to be named, confirmed the account.
Attahullah Khoqyani, spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, said operations by Afghan troops backed by international forces, had killed about 25 IS militants in two districts of the province in the past 24 hours.

Over the past two years, militants loyal to the IS group have established a stronghold in eastern Afghanistan where they fight both Afghan security forces and the Taliban. US and Afghan officials believe the IS group has several hundred fighters but say the movement has been weakened by repeated drone strikes and special forces operations.

However the group has claimed a number of high profile attacks outside its eastern stronghold, notably against Shia targets in the capital Kabul.

The Nangarhar attack came on the same day that the IS group claimed a suicide bombing on a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan, that killed at least 83 people.

Also on Friday, an Afghan provincial official said Taliban forces stormed several Afghan security posts in eastern Kunar province, killing five police officers.

Provincial Gov. Waheedullah Kalimzai said the daring attacks lasted nearly two hours and were apparently coordinated but police, aided by other security officials, managed to repel the attackers and drove the insurgents from the area. Kalimzai said another police officer is missing after the attack.

He said Taliban fighters used heavy machine guns and explosive devices in the assault. Kalimzai added that the Afghan police killed several Taliban fighters. Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province borders Pakistan. Insurgency groups have a strong presence in the area.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2017