Afghan special forces arrest terrorist IS-KP Finance Head

Abdul Malik Maliki accepted funds from Spain, Germany, and Ukraine.

Afghan Special Forces walk down from a roof of a house which was used by suspected Islamic State militants at the site of a ''mother of all bombs'', that struck the Achin district of Afghanistan April 23, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/PARWIZ)
Afghan Special Forces walk down from a roof of a house which was used by suspected Islamic State militants at the site of a ''mother of all bombs'', that struck the Achin district of Afghanistan April 23, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PARWIZ)

(Islamabad) – A senior Afghan intelligence official announced Wednesday that the chief of financial affairs for Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-KP), an affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group that is active across South and Central Asia, had been arrested by Afghan special forces in a remote area of the country.  

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The official told The Media Line that Abdul Malik (aka “Maliki”) was responsible for collecting funds from Germany, Ukraine, and Spain to distribute among IS-KP terrorists. He said that Maliki was responsible for recent terrorist attacks in the country, as well as motivating, recruiting, and training newly inducted youth.

Taliban sources described the arrest of Maliki as a major success against the terrorist group. Abdul Rehman Samangani, another Afghan official, told The Media Line, “During his investigation, Maliki revealed that his mission was to motivate foreign Muslim youth to join IS-KP, and he collected financial contributions for IS-KP, especially from Ukraine, Germany, and Spain.”

Maliki told the investigators that he collected $15,000 from Ukraine, €5,000 from Germany, and €1,500 from Spain for the group.

“We have achieved this success without any external support,” Samangani told The Media Line. “The operatives of the Afghan Special Intelligence Unit had been searching for Maliki for a long time. As soon as his identity was confirmed, our strike force apprehended him without any resistance.”

Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters gather during an intensive security deployment after Islamic State militants took it over the previous day in Luhaiban village in Kirkuk, Iraq, December 6, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AKO RASHEED)Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters gather during an intensive security deployment after Islamic State militants took it over the previous day in Luhaiban village in Kirkuk, Iraq, December 6, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AKO RASHEED)

Samangani would not disclose the location of Maliki’s arrest, saying, “Some sensational information has been received from Maliki that we cannot share publicly.” The IS-KP has killed nearly 700 people in various suicide attacks after the Taliban took over in August 2021.

IS-KP employs the same guerilla attacks, including roadside mines and targeted killings, that the Taliban used against the Ashraf Ghani-led government. The group launched its activities in Afghanistan in 2015 and since then it has carried out many lethal attacks. The most terrible atrocity was perpetrated during the American withdrawal in August 2021, ending the 20-year US-led war, when an IS-KP suicide bomber detonated himself at Kabul’s international airport, killing 13 US troops and as many as 170 civilians.

This disastrous bombing ended a 20-year US-led war in Afghanistan. Thirteen flag caskets were flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and a series of funerals were held across the country for the deceased US troops, most of whom were under 25.

The leading members of the IS-KP group are militants who have separated from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The IS-KP has repeatedly attacked mosques, schools, and workplaces of Hazaras and other religious minorities.

Taliban authorities

The Taliban authorities have done little to protect these communities from suicide attacks. The Hazaras are a majority Shiite ethnic group, which has been discriminated against and mistreated by the Afghan rulers for over a century.

Terrorist attacks, beyond their immediate devastation, cause long-term harm to survivors and victims’ families, depriving them of a livelihood, often placing heavy medical burdens on them, and limiting their access to daily life.

Analysts are calling the arrest of the group’s most important finance operative a major achievement for the Afghan government. Uzair Hassan Khan, a Quetta-based former Afghan diplomat, told The Media Line, “Maliki’s arrest will certainly be a financial blow to ISIS [the Islamic State group] and may even affect its terrorist operations for some time; but this group is notoriously adept at organizing itself.

“Of course,” he added, “they are supported by some countries and agencies that have their own goals in the region. If the Taliban take a serious offensive against ISIS in light of Maliki’s revelations, it is expected that the group may be eliminated from the country.

“Pakistan’s role in this regard will be very important. Pakistan’s security forces are much better equipped and trained to deal with terrorist organizations. Afghan authorities will have to take Pakistan on board in any case for a comprehensive operation against ISIS.”

“Pakistan’s role in this regard will be very important. Pakistan’s security forces are much better equipped and trained to deal with terrorist organizations. Afghan authorities will have to take Pakistan on board in any case for a comprehensive operation against ISIS.”

Uzair Hassan Khan

Farzana Shah, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghanistan’s armed groups, editor of The Global Conflict Watch, and a defense and strategic analyst, told The Media Line that Maliki’s arrest “is a considerable blow to ISIS, provided if Taliban officials succeed in extracting the list of all those who were financing ISIS. This depends on the kind of operational information and network Maliki was operating.”

She speculated that, because Maliki stated in his confession that Germany, Ukraine, and another country were contributing $15,000 each month, “he must have a list of people involved. So, it is indeed a considerable defeat for ISIS, provided the Taliban government succeeds in extracting the list of all those who were financing ISIS, plus the mode of the transactions.”

“In my personal opinion, the drug trade is a much bigger factor contributing to militant groups’ finances in Afghanistan,” she added.

Kamal Alam, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, told The Media Line that the apprehension of the IS-KP financial head “is a big blow and a much-needed boost for the Taliban. It also shows they are not completely incompetent. … The economic misery means any group can pay to carry out violence against the Taliban. ISIS or AQ [al-Qaida] or any other group exists because of the vacuum of governance.”

Alam added, “Conventional wisdom said that once the Taliban came to power, they would combine their fierce tactics with a formidable fighting force to secure the people of the country from IS-KP terror attacks, kidnappings, and looting that existed during the Ghani era. Unfortunately, due to the differences between the foot soldiers and commanders, this could not happen, and terrorism increased in the country.

“Now is the time for the Taliban to drop their egos and work together with non-Pashtun groups to make Afghanistan safe from terrorism and for a broad, pluralistic government.”

Salman Javed, an Islamabad-based political analyst and the director-general of the Pak Afghan Youth Forum, told The Media Line, “Apprehending Abdul Malik, aka ‘Maliki,’ shows the seriousness of the Afghan government to tackle the terrorist group.

“Picking up the right guy who is responsible for the financial lifeline of IS-KP inside Afghanistan is definitely a huge blow for the terrorist outfit and a major milestone by Afghan Intelligence, but now it will be important how they utilize the IS-KP asset to uproot the terror network,” he added.

“ISIS or IS-KP is a reincarnation by members of several other disgruntled terrorist groups and individuals, mainly from the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, and even from Taliban fugitive fighters, so they are well aware of the Afghan interim government’s counterterrorism tactics.”

Javed also noted, “Some inside reports suggest that IS-KP associates are present in the Taliban government as well as operating through sleeper cells. IS-KP is adopting a multi-prong strategy in Afghanistan; on one side it is using the fragile sentiments of religiously driven youth and on the other side it is approaching disgruntled factions of terrorist groups for recruitment, so the Afghan government must evolve its counterintelligence network in the country.”

He stressed, “IS-KP is a complicated nexus that is allegedly backed by foreign forces, so the Taliban need a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, with the full support of Pakistan, to eliminate IS-KP and its associates.”