ISIS announces new Pakistan ‘province’

ISIS has announced a new branch in Pakistan in a move analysts say is intended to boost recruitment for the flagging militants.

The extremist group had claimed all of its attacks in Pakistan in the name of the group’s “Khorasan Province”, which was founded in 2015 to cover “Afghanistan, Pakistan and nearby lands”.

The new organisational structure was disclosed in two statements on Wednesday, claiming responsibility for killings in Pakistan.

ISIS claimed to have assassinated a police officer in Mastung, south-west Balochistan, and hit rival Taliban fighters in Quetta, killing one and wounding three.

Both killings were attributed to a new “Pakistan Province” of the group.

Analysts said the group was trying to restructure and rebuild after the loss of its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. It is shifting towards a decentralised network of terrorist groups.

Setting up local branches could be an attempt to bolsters its local credentials to attract new recruits and existing militant groups in those areas.

“As ISIS seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing militant population,” said Rita Katz, director of the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors militant propaganda.

Five days earlier, ISIS declared another new branch in India.

“We have seen recently that the Khorasan chapter was struggling here in this region and in Afghanistan,” said Muhammad Rana, a security analyst at the Pakistani Institute for Peace Studies.

“So I think that they have brought a change in strategy and are following Al Qaeda’s strategy to create affiliates.

“After this announcement, I think that these self-radicalised militants and groups sitting on the fence waiting for a more attractive group may may feel more attracted in this new chapter of Daesh.”

ISIS arrived in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2015. The “caliphate” was at the height of its strength in Iraq and Syria and local militants began to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

Pakistan’s security forces say there is no organised ISIS presence inside the country but the group has claimed responsibility for bombings.

ISIS said it killed more than 20 people last month in a fruit market bombing targeting the Shiite Hazara ethnic group in the city of Quetta.

In Afghanistan, ISIS has established a stubborn foothold in the eastern provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar, where it has become the focus of American counter-terrorism.

But it is also in conflict with the Afghan Taliban. Conflict between the rival militants forces thousands of residents to flee the provinces.

ISIS says it opposes the Taliban’s tentative peace talks with the Americans.