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Who is Sanaullah Ghaffari, the head of ISIS Khurasan?

The United States has announced a کروڑ 10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Sanaullah Ghaffari, the head of ISIS's Khurasan branch.

Let's take a look at who Sanaullah Ghaffari is and why he is so important to the extremist organization and how influential ISIL is in Afghanistan at the moment.

Sanaullah Ghaffari, head of ISIL's Khurasan branch in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nearby South Asian countries, is known in jihadi circles as Shehab al-Muhajir.

The State Department also announced a کروڑ 10 million reward for information leading to the capture of the perpetrators of the August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul Airport.

More than 180 people, including 13 US soldiers, were killed in a horrific suicide bombing outside Kabul airport on August 26, most of them Afghans who fled the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul. Were desirous of ISIS Khorasan claimed responsibility for the attack.

The State Department says Sanaullah Ghafari was appointed head of ISIS Khurasan in November 2020 and is responsible for approving all operations by the extremist group throughout Afghanistan and obtaining the necessary funding to carry out operations.

The statement added that the US government's actions were part of an effort to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a platform for international terrorism again.

The US State Department's announcement of a reward for information leading to the capture of ISIS in Khurasan comes at a time when the Taliban government in Afghanistan has begun cracking down on ISIS. There have also been claims of killing or arresting several ISIS members in these operations.

In November, the US State Department listed Sanaullah Ghafari, ISIS spokesman Sultan Aziz and Kabul leader Maulvi Rajab as global terrorists, and banned all three members of ISIL's international aide Ismatullah. Was gone

Who is Sanaullah Ghaffari?

ISIL Khurasan chief Sanaullah Ghafari hails from Shakar Dara district, north of Kabul. He also holds an engineering degree from Kabul University.

According to a recent report on ISIS Khorasan by the Combating Terrorism Center of the US Military Academy West Point, Sanaullah Ghaffari's family belonged to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami party. But he himself was influenced by Sheikh Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil, a teacher at Kabul University and a religious leader of the Salafi school of thought in Afghanistan.

This is the same Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil whose tortured body was found in Paghman district after the Taliban took control of Kabul. The Salafi school of thought called the operation retaliatory by the Taliban. However, the Taliban denied the allegations.

Sheikh Mutawakil was also accused by the Ashraf Ghani government of supporting ISIS in Khurasan, which led to his long imprisonment, but after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, Parvez managed to escape from prison.

According to the Combating Terrorism Center, Sanaullah Ghafari started participating in jihadist activities from the platform of Hezb-e-Islami and later joined the Haqqani Network faction in the Taliban. When ISIS announced its branch in Afghanistan, Sanaullah Ghafari joined it and became the deputy leader of the extremist group's Kabul network.

Sanaullah Ghafari became the head of the Khurasan branch of the extremist group in June 2020, which was first reported by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwari. In a statement issued by ISIS, Sanaullah Ghaffari's name was written as Shehab Al-Muhajir.

Terrorism in Afghanistan has risen sharply since Sanaullah Ghafari took office, and the militant group has stepped up attacks on government and Taliban leaders, as well as efforts to secure the release of imprisoned comrades.

Why was the real name of Sanaullah Ghaffari not revealed?

Ricardo, an Italian researcher with a keen eye on ISIS affairs, told VOA that ISIS Khorasan tried to hide Sanaullah Ghaffari's true identity from the beginning, probably because of his security.

According to him, Sanaullah Ghaffari was seen only once in a blurry video released on an unofficial media channel of ISIS Khorasan.

Ricardo says the use of the name Al-Muhajir has raised suspicions about the head of ISIS Khorasan, giving people the impression that he may be from Iraq or that he may be from Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region. ۔

According to him, in the past, Sanaullah Ghafari's audio messages were read in Pashto by Sultan Aziz Azzam, a spokesman for the extremist group, suggesting that he could not speak Dari fluently. But in early 2021, two of his Dari-language books emerged, detailing the importance of ISIS in Afghanistan and its future course of action.

He said that when the US government first revealed the true identity of Shahab-ul-Muhajir Sanaullah Ghafari, ISIL Khorasan denied the identity of Al-Muhajir and its previous affiliation with the Haqqani Network through a pamphlet.

Wale Ricardo says that Sanaullah Ghaffari is considered one of the main leaders of ISIS whose influence has now spread beyond the Khurasan branch to other regions.

Several fighters of the organization were also arrested in the crackdown against ISIS under the former Afghan government.

The current situation of ISIS in Afghanistan

Two days before the announcement of the reward by the United States, the UN Security Council released a new report stating that the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is around 4,000. Most of them are fighters who were released after prisons were broken into after the Taliban took control of Kabul.

The report claims that the central leadership of ISIS has allocated لاکھ 500,000 for ISIS active in Afghanistan and that the money is sent through hawala.

According to the report, after the arrival of Taliban in Afghanistan, an extremist group called ISIL East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is recruiting people with the help of ISIL's Uighur team in order to increase its presence in the region.

The ETIM is an Islamic separatist group said to be active in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. ETIM members fled to Afghanistan in the 1990s to escape government crackdowns in China and have been sheltered by the Afghan Taliban.

When did ISIS become Khorasan?

ISIS formed an organization for Pakistan and Afghanistan called 'Khorasan' in 2015. ISIL's success in Pakistan was achieved in the first phase when a faction of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-e-Alami
He had pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

An Afghan journalist from the Afghan province of Kunar told VOA on condition of anonymity that the TTP's intensity shifted to the neighboring provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar in 2014 due to a military operation in Pakistan's former tribal areas. Where leaders and militants who split from the Afghan Taliban joined forces to make these provinces strongholds of ISIS.

The journalist added that ISIL formed its own organization and started fierce battles against the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government forces and captured most of the areas of the two provinces.

He said that the scholars of Salafi school of thought in Nangarhar and Kunar also had the support of ISIS. However, due to the Afghan Taliban, Afghan security forces and US airstrikes, ISIS was almost wiped out in February 2020.

According to him, as soon as the peace agreement was signed between the US and the Taliban in February 2020, ISIS Khorasan started trying to reactivate and tried to spread chaos in the country through its attacks to stop the political progress between the two sides.

Afghan journalists say that after the Taliban came to power, ISIS Khurasan has become active again and is challenging the Taliban rule through its attacks in different parts of the country including Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz and Nangarhar.

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