Reuters Sep 08, 2014
Pamphlets and flags of ISIS have appeared in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, alongside signs that the ultra-radical group is inspiring militants even in the strongholds of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
A splinter group of Pakistan’s Taliban insurgents, Jamat-ul Ahrar, has already declared its support for the well-funded and ruthless Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), now known as the Islamic State, who have captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in a drive to set up a self-declared caliphate.
“ISIS is an Islamic Jihadi organisation working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the Caliphate,” Jamat-ul Ahrar’s leader and a prominent Taliban figure, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. “We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide.”
Islamist militants of varios hues already hold sway across restive and impoverished areas of South Asia, but the ISIS, with its rapid capture of territory, beheadings and mass executions, is starting to draw a measure of support among younger fighters in the region. Al Qaeda’s ageing leaders, mostly holed up in the lawless region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, are increasingly seen as stale, tired and ineffectual on hardcore jihadi social media forums and Twitter accounts that incubate potential militant recruits.
Seeking to boost its influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, a local cell with allegiance to the ISIS has been distributing pamphlets in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and eastern Afghanistan in the past few weeks, residents said.
The 12-page booklet called “Fatah” (Victory), published in the Pashto and Dari languages of Afghanistan, was being mainly distributed in Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of Peshawar. The pamphlet’s logo features an AK-47 assault rifle and calls on local residents to support the militant group. Cars with ISIS stickers have also been spotted around Peshawar.
A Pakistani security official said the pamphlets came from Afghanistan’s neighbouring Kunar province, where a group of Taliban fighters was spotted distributing them. Sameeulah Hanifi, a prayer leader in a Peshawar neighbourhood populated mainly by Afghans, said the pamphlets were being distributed by a little-known local group called Islami Khalifat, an outspoken ISIS supporter.