Thirteen suspected Islamic State fighters from India were among the 96 militants killed when the US military dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on IS positions in eastern Afghanistan, according to an Afghan media report on Tuesday.
Kabul-based Pajhwok Afghan News agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying that “13 Indian Daesh militants were also among those killed”. Daesh is a name used by Afghan and Arab officials to refer to IS.
The security official said 13 IS commanders were also among the dead. At least two of the commanders – identified by the official only as Mohammad and Allah Gupta – were from India.
Sheikh Waqas, a former member of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and a resident of the Orakzai tribal region, was also among the dead commanders.
Diplomatic sources in Kabul said there was “no confirmation of these reports”. An Indian security source in New Delhi also said: “No confirmation as of now about the killing of any Indian in the attack.”
Amaq News Agency, the IS media arm, has said none of the group’s fighters were killed in the attack.
The security source said NIA officials were in touch with families of Indians suspected of being recruited by IS to gather details.
At least two dozen Indians, including 21 from Kerala, were believed to have joined the IS in eastern Afghanistan, the area that was targeted by the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs”, on April 13.
Relatives of these people too said they had no information about the fate of their wards. Thirteen of the missing are from Padanna village in north Kerala’s Kasargode district.
Before the MOAB attack, two alleged Indian recruits – Mohamed Mursheed and Mohammad Hafeezuddin – had died in the past two months. Hafeezuddin died two months ago but news of Mursheed’s death was conveyed to his family two days before the MOAB attack.
“After informing us about the death of Mursheed, we are yet to hear from them. I tried to send a message to Ashfaaq Majeed, one of the missing youth who used to send us messages, on Telegram but it elicited no replies,” said BC Rehman, a relative of one of the missing men.
The security official quoted by Pajhwok said the MOAB attack in Achin district of Nangarhar province also killed former Pakistani Taliban fighter Shahid Omar Afridi, Mumtaz, a retired Pakistani military officer, and commanders Emran Orakzai and Aftab Punjabi from Pakistan.
The official said important IS hideouts were located in a cave complex that was targeted with the MOAB. Fighters from other parts of the world would come and meet in this complex, the official said.
(With inputs from Ramesh Babu in Thiruvananthapuram)