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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

ISIL hideout packed with explosives and weapons found in Kabul neighbourhood

President Ghani promises security review after spate of attacks in the Afghan capital

Residents of the Qala-e-Walid neighbourhood of Kabul walk past the house used as a hideout by ISIL on February 2, 2018. Massoud Hossaini / AP Photo
Residents of the Qala-e-Walid neighbourhood of Kabul walk past the house used as a hideout by ISIL on February 2, 2018. Massoud Hossaini / AP Photo

Afghan security forces uncovered an ISIL hideout packed with explosives, weapons and suicide vests this week in a poor western neighborhood of the capital, Kabul.

The ISIL base was hidden behind 3-metres green metal doors in the Qala-e-Wahid neighborhood, an intelligence official told Associated Press.

He said security forces were led to the house by a militant who was captured during an attack on a military academy in Kabul in which 11 soldiers died. Afghanistan's ISIL affiliate, which calls itself Khorasan Province, claimed the attack in a statement carried by its Amaq news agency.

The insurgents at the safe house in Qala-e-Wahid were plotting to carry out three more large attacks in Kabul, the intelligence official said.

Khan Mohammed, a resident of the neighbourhood, told AP on Friday that police rarely patrolled the area and residents stay indoors after dark because of marauding gangs of thieves.

"It is dangerous for all the people of Qala-e-Wahid that Daesh was here, but they came here because it is an insecure area," said Mohammed, whose home is across the lane from the ISIL hideout. "For Daesh this was the perfect area because you can bring everything here from anywhere."

The streets that weave through Qala-e-Wahid are rutted and ankle deep in mud. A wide open sewer runs the length of the lanes. It is clogged with bags of rubbish, mounds of waste. Some residents, suspicious of outsiders, refused to identify the ISIL house. There are whispers that ISIL may have sympathisers in the neighbourhood. Others, who were willing to talk, say the dangers in their neighbourhood come from many places because the security services are non-existent.

Zikarullah, a 15-year-old who lives in a mud and straw house directly opposite the ISIL hideout, said the occupants, three men and a woman, had moved in about 25 days earlier. They engaged freely with the residents.

"One of them asked me if I liked cricket and said he would buy me a new cricket ball and bat," Zikarullah said. The occupants were young and the woman always wore the all-enveloping burqa that hid her from head to toe.

Another neighbour, 16-year-old Samsor said the woman carried the explosives and weapons under her burqa.

"The police told us this after they arrested them and they told us they were from Nangarhar," said Samsor.

Afghan security forces, aided by the US-led coalition have been targeting suspected ISIL hideouts in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, where they are believed to have established their most extensive bases. The United States last year dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb targeting ISIL hideouts in a remote mountainous region of Nangarhar province.

Afghanistan has been battered by a series of attacks in recent weeks that have killed nearly 200 people, wounded hundreds more and angered citizens frustrated by the deteriorating security, which they blame on their feuding government as well as inadequate intelligence gathering and poor policing.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, under pressure for security lapses, went on national television on Friday to blame Pakistan for harbouring the Taliban, who claimed an attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel on January 20 and a bombing that killed more than 100 people last Saturday. Islamabad denies the accusation.

"The Afghan nation is waiting for clear action" from Pakistan, said Mr Ghani, adding that so far Afghanistan got only promises of co-operation from Islamabad.

The president said he had also ordered a wide-reaching review of Kabul's security following the recent attacks.

"The Kabul people are demanding that we make a serious review of our security arrangements," he said.

However, Mr Ghani's national unity government has been paralysed by a protracted feud with powerful warlords, including his vice president, the Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum, who is currently in Turkey and prevented by the government from returning to Afghanistan. Mr Ghani has also fired the powerful Tajik warlord Atta Mohammed as governor of northern Balkh province, who has refused to step down.

"What kind of government do we have that they are fighting with each other"? There is no security in this country," said Mohammad Hajan, standing near the padlocked ISIL house in Qala-e-Wahid. "In the morning I wake up and I don't know if I will be alive in the evening.

"Our nation is very good. But our leaders are bad and our government is weak."

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Read more:

Taliban and ISIL adapt to ramped-up security, create a perfect storm of carnage

Afghanistan says it has proof recent attacks were planned in Pakistan

US marines see Afghan forces improve in Helmand battles

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