Hazara Afghan Shias seek help from old enemies to face IS

SHAFAQNA  – According to report of themalaysianinsider Even by Afghanistan’s standards of often-shifting alliances, a recent meeting between ethnic Hazara elders and local commanders of the Taliban insurgents who have persecuted them for years was extraordinary.The Hazaras – a largely Shia minority killed in the thousands during the Taliban’s hard-line Sunni Islamist rule of the 1990s – came to their old enemies seeking protection against what they deemed an even greater threat: masked men operating in the area calling themselves “Daish”, a term for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) in the region.

In a sign of changing times, the Taliban commanders agreed to help, said Abdul Khaliq Yaqubi, one of the elders at the meeting held in the eastern province of Ghazni.The unusual pact is a window into deepening anxiety in Afghanistan over reports of Isis  radicals gaining a foothold in a country already weary of more than a decade of war with the Taliban.Back-to-back kidnappings within a month of two groups of Hazara travellers – by men widely rumoured, though far from proven, to claim fealty to Isis – have many spooked.The current threat Isis poses in Afghanistan, observers say, is less about real military might than the opportunity for disparate insurgent groups, including defectors from an increasingly fractured Taliban, to band together under this global “brand” that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The fear is especially keen among religious minorities like the Hazaras, who worry the influence of the fiercely anti-Shia Isis could introduce a new dimension of sectarian strife to the war.“Whether Daish exists or not, the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities,” Ghazni’s deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi said.“This could easily stir up tensions.”Unlike in Iraq or Syria, Isis controls no Afghan territory and operational links between local fighters and the group’s leadership are murky.But reports of self-proclaimed Isis fighters have been growing since last summer. In Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace, armed clashes between alleged Isis fighters and local Taliban have been reported.

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