China warns of imminent attacks by “terrorists” in Pakistan

China warns of imminent attacks by "terrorists" in Pakistan

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Friday warned its nationals in Pakistan of plans for a series of imminent “terrorist attacks” on Chinese targets there, an unusual alert as it pours funds into infrastructure projects into a country plagued by militancy.

Thousands of Chinese workers have gone to Pakistan following Beijing’s pledge to spend $57 billion there on projects in President Xi Jinping’s signature “Belt and Road” development plan, which aims to link China with the Middle East and Europe.

Protecting employees of Chinese companies, as well as individual entrepreneurs who have followed the investment wave along what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, has been a concern for Chinese officials.

“It is understood that terrorists plan in the near term to launch a series of attacks against Chinese organizations and personnel in Pakistan,” the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said in a statement on its website.

The embassy warned all “Chinese-invested organizations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, reduce trips outside as much as possible, and avoid crowded public spaces”.

It also asked Chinese nationals to cooperate with Pakistan’s police and the military, and to alert the embassy in the event of an emergency.

It did not give any further details.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry could not be reached immediately for comment.

China has long worried about disaffected members of its Uighur Muslim minority in its far western region of Xinjiang linking up with militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At the same time, violence in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province has fueled concern about security for planned transport and energy links from western China to Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar.

The Taliban, sectarian groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State all operate in Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and is at the center of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

In addition, separatists there have long battled the government for a greater share of gas and mineral resources, and have a long record of attacking energy and other infrastructure projects.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for killing two kidnapped Chinese teachers in Baluchistan in June, prompting the government in Islamabad to pledge to beef up security for Chinese nationals.

It had already promised a 15,000-strong army division to safeguard projects along the economic corridor.

China’s security concerns abroad have grown along with its global commercial footprint.

In 2016, a suspected suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, killing the attacker and wounding at least three people.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Islamic State seizes new Afghan foothold after luring Taliban defectors

Islamic State seizes new Afghan foothold after luring Taliban defectors

By Matin Sahak and Girish Gupta

JAWZJAN, Afghanistan/KABUL (Reuters) – When a Taliban commander defected to Islamic State in northern Afghanistan a few months ago, his men and the foreign fighters he invited in started to enslave local women and set up a bomb-making school for 300 children, officials and residents said.

The mini-caliphate established six months ago in two districts of Jawzjan province marks a new inroad in Afghanistan by Islamic State (IS), which is claiming more attacks even as its fighters suffer heavy losses in Iraq and Syria.

Qari Hekmat, a prominent Taliban leader in Jawzjan, switched allegiance around six months ago, according to local people who have since fled, raising the movement’s black flag over the local mosque and forcing residents to swear fealty to IS’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

“They started killing a lot of people and warned others to cooperate,” said Baz Mohammad, who fled Darz Aab district after his 19-year-old son was recruited into IS at the local mosque.

IS in Jawzjan has now attracted the attention of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which will launch an offensive in the north in the next few days, U.S. Army General John Nicholson said on Tuesday.

U.S. air strikes and special forces have been pounding the main Afghan foothold of IS fighters in the eastern province of Nangarhar, but that has not prevented the movement from stepping up attacks.

IS has claimed at least 15 bombings and other attacks in Afghanistan this year, including two in Kabul last month, killing at least 188 people. The number of attacks is up from just a couple nationwide last year.

It is unclear whether the all the attacks claimed by IS were carried out by the group, or linked to its central leadership in the Middle East. Afghan intelligence officials say some of the attacks may in fact have been carried out by the Taliban or its allied Haqqani network and opportunistically claimed by IS.

Yet the sheer number of attacks plus the targeting of Shi’ite mosques, an IS hallmark, indicates the movement is gaining some strength, though their links to the leadership in the Middle East remain murky.

Some analysts see IS as an umbrella term covering groups of fighters in Nangarhar’s mountains, armed gangs in northern Afghanistan and suicide bombers in Kabul. Little is known about what ties them together.

“IS in Afghanistan never was such a solid, coherent organization, even from the beginning,” said Borhan Osman, an International Crisis Group analyst.

“BRUTAL AND BARBARIC”

In Jawzjan, Islamic State gained its pocket of territory in much the same way it did in Nangarhar – through defection of an established militant commander.

Hekmat’s Taliban fighters had long held sway in Darz Aab and Qushtepa districts, with the Afghan government having little control, residents who fled to Shiberghan, some 120 km away (75 miles), told Reuters.

But when Hekmat had a falling-out with the central Taliban leadership and switched allegiance, his men were joined by about 400 IS-affiliated fighters from China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and elsewhere, according to Darz Aab’s district chief, Baz Mohammad Dawar.

Foreign militants have long operated in the border areas of Afghanistan, and in Jawzjan they had typically moved from place to place, occasionally cooperating with the Taliban.

But once they came to stay, life changed for the worse, according to three families and local officials who spoke to Reuters, even by the war-weary standards of Afghanistan.

“IS took our women as slaves, or forcefully made them marry a fighter. The Taliban never did that,” said Sayed Habibullah, a Darz Aab resident.

“The Taliban had mercy and we spoke the same language, but IS fighters are foreigners, much more brutal and barbaric.”

The fighters also forced some 300 children into IS training.

“In the school, IS allocated two classes for the children to learn about guns and bombs,” said Ghawsuddin, a former headmaster in Darz Aab who, like many Afghans, goes by one name.

“OUR ENEMY”

Islamic State emerged in Afghanistan more than two years ago, when members of the Pakistani Taliban swore allegiance to the relatively new global Islamist movement that at the time had seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

By June 2015, newly IS-aligned fighters had crossed into Afghanistan and seized around half a dozen districts in Nangarhar, scorching Taliban poppy fields and forcing them to flee. (http://reut.rs/2j2l6Oy)

Soon after, U.S. forces began air strikes and dispatched special forces to assist Afghan troops in fighting Islamic State – also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh.

Nicholson, the commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, said on Tuesday that some 1,400 operations had been conducted against IS since March, “removing over 1,600” from the battlefield and cutting off their outside finance and support.

“Daesh has been unable to establish a caliphate in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said, adding “We see no evidence of fighters making their way from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, because they know if they come here they will face death.”.

Even if IS is not bringing in new fighters – though that remains a fear – it is another obstacle to Afghan security after 16 years of war against the Taliban.

“Whether it is Islamic State or Taliban, they are our enemy,” said Jawzjan police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani. “And they have to be eliminated.”

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Kay Johnson and Alex Richardson)

Egypt says attackers had Islamic State flag as mosque death toll rises

Egypt says attackers had Islamic State flag as mosque death toll rises

By Omar Fahmy

CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen who attacked a mosque in North Sinai were carrying an Islamic State flag, Egyptian officials said on Saturday as the state news agency reported the death toll had risen to 305, including 27 children.

Egypt’s military said they had carried out air strikes and raids overnight against militants held responsible for the killings, the bloodiest attack in Egypt’s modern history.

The attack also left 128 people injured, the MENA state news agency reported, while Egypt’s public prosecutor’s office linked it to Islamic State militants, also known as Daesh.

“They numbered between 25 and 30, carrying the Daesh flag and took up positions in front of the mosque door and its 12 windows with automatic rifles,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

The gunmen, some wearing masks and military-style uniforms, surrounded the mosque blocking windows and a doorway and opened fire inside with automatic rifles, the statement said, citing their investigation and interviews with wounded survivors.

No group has claimed responsibility, but Egyptian forces are battling a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the region, one of the surviving branches of the militant group after it suffered defeats by U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

“The air force has over the past few hours eliminated a number of outposts used by terrorist elements,” the army said.

Witnesses say gunmen set off a bomb at the end of Friday prayers at the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El-Arish city, and then opened fire as worshippers tried to flee, shooting at ambulances and setting fire to cars to block roads.

Images on state media showed bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the mosque.

Striking a mosque would be a shift in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have previously attacked troops and police and more recently tried to spread their insurgency to the mainland by hitting Christian churches and pilgrims.

The massive casualties in the Sinai attack and the targeting of a mosque stunned Egyptians who have struggled through instability after the 2011 uprising ousted long-standing leader Hosni Mubarak, and the years of protests that followed.

UTMOST FORCE

Local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State consider targets because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry. Islamic State has targeted Sufi and Shi’ite Muslims in other countries like Iraq.

The jihadists in Egypt’s Sinai have also attacked local tribes and their militias for working with the army and police.

Sisi, a former armed forces commander who supporters see as a bulwark against Islamist militants, promised the “utmost force” against those responsible for Friday’s attack. Security has been a key reason for his supporters to back him, and he is expected to run for re-election next year.

“What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism,” he said on Friday.

North Sinai, a mostly desert area which stretches from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has long been a security headache for Egypt and is a strategic region for Cairo because of its sensitive borders.

Local militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, once allied to al Qaeda, split from it and declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. But attacks in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood after mass protests against his rule.

(Writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Alexander Smith and Jeremy Gaunt)

Militants kill more than 230 at mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai

Militants kill more than 230 at mosque in Egypt's North Sinai

By Ahmed Tolba and Patrick Markey

CAIRO (Reuters) – Militants killed more than 230 people at a mosque in North Sinai on Friday, detonating a bomb and gunning down worshippers in the deadliest such attack of Egypt’s modern history, state media and witnesses said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but since 2013 Egyptian security forces have battled a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the mainly desert region, and militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El Arish, the main city in North Sinai.

Worshippers were finishing Friday prayers at the mosque when a bomb exploded, witnesses said. Around 40 gunmen set up positions outside the mosque with jeeps and opened fire from different directions as people tried to escape.

“Four groups of armed men attacked the worshippers inside the mosque after Friday noon prayers. Two groups were firing at ambulances to deter them, said Mohamed, a witness.

The public prosecutors’ office said in a statement 235 people had been killed and 109 more wounded.

Hours after the attack, Egypt’s military launched air strikes on targets in mountainous areas around Bir al-Abed, security sources and witnesses said.

“The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force,” Sisi said in a televised address.

“What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region.”

Striking at a mosque would be a change in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have usually attacked troops and police and Christian churches.

SUFI MUSLIMS

Arabiya news channel and some local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State consider targets because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry.

The jihadists have also attacked local tribes and their militias for working with the army and police, branding them traitors.

The Sinai branch is one of Islamic State’s surviving branches following the collapse of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq after military defeats by U.S.-backed forces.

Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy, convened an emergency meeting with his defence and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack.

Security has long been one of the key sources of public support for the former general, who is expected to run for re-election early next year for another four-year term.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a post on Twitter on Friday, called the assault a “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack”.

“The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence,” he added.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also condemned the attack and said Paris stood with its ally.

SINAI STRUGGLE

North Sinai, which stretches from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, has long been a security headache for Egyptian security forces because of smuggling.

Sisi has support from some Bedouin tribal leaders, who have helped the army locate weapon-smuggling routes used by jihadi groups, security officials said.

Local militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, once allied to al Qaeda, split from it and declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2014.

Bloodshed in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Islamic State earlier this year posted a video of the beheading of two Sufis in northern Sinai, accusing them of practicing “sorcery”.

In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Militants have tried to expand their operations into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims. In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group travelling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah in Cairo and Yousri Mohamed in Ismalia; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Militants kill 184 in attack on mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai: state media

By Ahmed Tolba and Patrick Markey

CAIRO (Reuters) – Militants killed 184 people at a mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai region on Friday, detonating a bomb and shooting at fleeing worshippers and ambulances, state media and witnesses said.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in the region’s Islamist insurgency. No group claimed immediate responsibility, but since 2014 Egyptian security forces have battled a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the north of the mainly desert Sinai, where militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of the city of El Arish.

State television and the official news agency MENA reported that 184 people had been killed. Another 125 were wounded, according to state media.

“They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a local resident whose relatives were at the scene told Reuters. “They were shooting at the ambulances too.”

Arabiya news channel and some local sources said some of the worshippers were sufis who hardliners such as Islamic State regard as apostates because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former armed forces commander who presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militants, convened an emergency meeting with his defence and interior ministers and intelligence chief soon after the attack, the presidency’s Facebook page and state television said.

The government also declared three days of mourning.

Militants have mostly targeted security forces in their attacks since bloodshed in the Sinai worsened after 2013 when Sisi, then an armed forces commander, led the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

But jihadists have also targeted local Sinai tribes that are working with the armed forces, branding them traitors for cooperating with the army and police.

In July this year, at least 23 soldiers were killed when suicide car bombs hit two military checkpoints in the Sinai, an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Militants have tried to expand beyond the largely barren, Sinai Peninsula into Egypt’s heavily populated mainland, hitting Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims.

In May, gunmen attacked a Coptic group travelling to a monastery in southern Egypt, killing 29.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

German police arrest Syrian suspected of planning bomb attack

German police arrest Syrian suspected of planning bomb attack

BERLIN (Reuters) – German police arrested a 19-year-old Syrian suspected of planning an Islamist-motivated bomb attack in Germany with the aim of killing as many people as possible, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

The man, whose name was given as Yamen A., was arrested in the early hours in the northeastern town of Schwerin. Police searched his home and also those of other people not suspected of being directly involved.

“According to the findings so far, Yamen A. made the decision no later than July 2017 to detonate an explosive device in Germany in order to kill and injure as many people as possible,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“As a result, he began to procure components and chemicals needed to make an explosive device. Whether the suspect had already envisaged a specific target for his bomb attack is still unclear,” the office added.

There were no indications that he was a member of a terrorist organization, it said. It did not say when he arrived in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is trying to form a new coalition government after elections last month, has come under fire for allowing more than one million people to enter Germany over the past two years – many of them refugees from Syria.

Her ‘open door’ refugee policy saw her conservatives bleed support in the election to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which won seats in the national parliament for the first time.

The prosecutor’s office said it would give an update on the investigation at 2 p.m. (1300 GMT).

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Peter Graff)

Bombs kill at least seven in Mogadishu

A general view shows the scene after a suicide car bomb explosion at the gate of Naso Hablod Two Hotel in Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu, Somalia October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Two car bombs killed at least 17 people in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday, police said, and Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility.

A suicide car bomb was rammed into a hotel, Nasahablod Two, about 600 meters from the presidential palace, and then armed militants stormed the building, police said.

A few minutes later a car bomb exploded near the former parliament house nearby.

Ali Nur, a police officer, told Reuters 17 people, mostly policemen, had died in the blasts.

“Security forces have entered a small portion of the hotel building … the exchange of gunfire is hellish,” he said.

The police personnel who died had been stationed close to hotel’s gate. The dead also included a former lawmaker, he said.

Fighting continued to rage inside the hotel and police said the death toll was likely to rise.

Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Amin ambulances, told Reuters the emergency service had carried 17 people injured from the hotel blast.

A huge cloud of smoke rose over the scene and a Reuters witness saw over a dozen wrecked cars and bloodstains in front of the hotel. Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the vicinity.

Islamist group al Shabaab, responsible for scores of such attacks in the country’s long civil war, said it carried out Saturday’s bombings.

“We targeted ministers and security officials who were inside the hotel. We are fighting inside,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.

He said the hotel belonged to Somalia’s internal security minister, Mohamed Abukar Islow.

Al Shabaab is fighting to topple Somalia’s internationally-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.

Bombs in Mogadishu two weeks ago killed at least 358 people, the worst such attacks in the country’s history, igniting nationwide outrage. Al Shabaab was widely suspected, but has not claimed responsibility.

(Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Andrew Roche)

Brooklyn man sentenced to 15 years prison over Islamic State support

Brooklyn man sentenced to 15 years prison over Islamic State support

By Jonathan Stempel and Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Brooklyn man was sentenced on Friday to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State.

Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 27, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Kuntz in the federal court in Brooklyn.

The defendant, an Uzbekistan citizen who once chopped salad at a Brooklyn gyro shop, was one of six people charged in the same case with plotting to aid Islamic State, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.

Prosecutors sought a 15-year prison term, the maximum possible. Lawyers for Juraboev sought no more than five years, calling him an “unsophisticated, gullible, and lonely young man” who reached “wrong conclusions” about Islam and Islamic State.

Michael Weil, a federal public defender representing Juraboev, declined to comment after the sentencing.

Authorities said Juraboev had in August 2014 posted an online threat to kill then-U.S. President Barack Obama on behalf of Islamic State, and spoke of planting a bomb on Coney Island if the group ordered it.

Juraboev was arrested in February 2015, after buying a plane ticket to fly the next month to Istanbul, Turkey, intending to then travel to Syria to join Islamic State, authorities said.

Two co-defendants, Akhror Saidakhmetov and Abror Habibov, pleaded guilty this year, and charges are still pending against co-defendants Dilkhayot Kasimov, Azizjon Rakhmatov and Akmal Zakirov, court records show. Saidakhmetov faces a Dec. 13 sentencing.

Saidakhmetov was also arrested in February 2015, as he was boarding a plane to Istanbul, authorities said.

The arrests of Juraboev and Saidakhmetov followed roughly five months of interactions between the men and a paid informant posing as being ideologically sympathetic.

Other defendants were charged with conspiring to pay Juraboev’s and Saidakhmetov’s travel expenses.

Another Uzbekistan citizen, Dilshod Khusanov, was in August charged in a separate case with having discussed with Zakirov providing funds for Saidakhmetov’s trip, and helping others join Islamic State or al-Nusrah Front, another militant group.

More than 100 people have faced U.S. charges in connection with Islamic State since 2014.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Syrian army captures Islamic State position, eyes final stronghold

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian army and its allies seized an oil pumping station in eastern Syria from Islamic State, paving the way for an advance towards the jihadists’ last remaining Syrian stronghold, a Hezbollah-run news service reported on Thursday.

The “T2” pumping station is “considered a launch pad for the army and its allies to advance towards the town of Albu Kamal … which is considered the last remaining stronghold of the Daesh organization in Syria”, the report said.

Albu Kamal is located in Deir al-Zor province at the Syrian border with Iraq, just over the frontier from the Iraqi town of al-Qaim. Iraq declared on Thursday the start of an offensive to capture al-Qaim and Rawa, the last patch of Iraqi territory still in IS hands.

Islamic State’s self-declared “caliphate” has crumbled this year with the fall of the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul. In Syria, the group is now mostly confined to a shrinking strip of territory in Deir al-Zor province.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State is waging a separate campaign against the group in Deir al-Zor, focused on areas to the east of the Euphrates River which bisects the province. Albu Kamal is located on the western bank of the river.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Taliban attacks kill at least 69 across Afghanistan

Smoke rises from police headquarters while Afghan security forces keep watch after a suicide car bomber and gunmen attacked the provincial police headquarters in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, Afghanistan October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban militants struck government targets in many provinces of Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 69 people, including a senior police commander, and wounding scores of others.

The deadliest attack hit a police training centre attached to the police headquarters in Gardez, main city of Paktia province.

Two Taliban suicide car bombers paved the way for a number of gunmen to attack the compound, officials and militants said. At least 21 police officers were killed, including the Paktia provincial police chief, with 48 others wounded, according to government officials.

The attack also left at least 20 civilians dead and 110 wounded, the Interior Ministry said. Security forces killed at least five attackers.

Dozens of dead and wounded were taken to the city hospital, even as many more lay where they fell during the fighting, deputy public health director Hedayatullah Hameedi said.

The Taliban, seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster by U.S.-led forces, claimed responsibility.

The militant group also attacked a district centre in neighbouring Ghazni province on Tuesday, detonating an armoured Humvee vehicles packed with explosives near the provincial governor’s office.

Provincial officials said at least 15 government security forces were killed and 12 wounded in the Ghazni attacks, with 13 civilians killed and seven wounded.

The Taliban said they had killed 31 security forces and wounded 21 in those clashes.

Fighting was also reported near local government centres in Farah and Kandahar provinces.

 

(Additional reporting by Mustafa Andalib in Ghazni; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie)