The Islamic State on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a television station in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar that killed 10 people and wounded at least 17 people.
As the attack unfolded, heavy gunfire could be heard from around the building of RTA, Afghanistan’s national broadcaster, located close to the governor’s compound in the provincial capital, Jalalabad.
“Islamic State fighters are currently carrying out an attack inside the state broadcasting building in the city of Jalalabad,” the movement’s AMAQ newsagency said in a statement on instant messaging service Telegram.
The terror group has established a stronghold in the province bordering Pakistan, where it fights both the Taliban and Afghan government forces.
Islamic State insurgents are active in Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital.
The US military last month dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb -- dubbed the “Mother Of All Bombs” -- on IS positions in Nangarhar, killing dozens of jihadists.
The bombing triggered global shock waves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.
According to the US Forces-Afghanistan, defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the local IS presence from a peak of as many as 3,000 fighters to a maximum of 800. The head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abdul Hassib, was reported this month to have been killed in a joint Afghan-US operation in Nangarhar at the end of April.
The Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.
US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity -- a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.
Afghanistan suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists in 2016, according to the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC), adding that the country is the second most dangerous for reporters in the world after Syria.
At least 13 journalists were killed last year, AJSC said, claiming that the Taliban was behind at least ten of the deaths.
In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for “spreading propaganda” against them.
It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 and spotlighted the dangers faced by journalists as the security situation worsens.
Dan Coats, the head of US intelligence agencies, warned last week that the security situation “will also almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in the military assistance by the US”.
US-led forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, making it America’s longest war.