KABUL (CNN) — ISIS militants have kidnapped and killed 30 people in Afghanistan’s Ghor province, according to a provincial spokesman.
The group was abducted as they entered the mountains of Ghor to collect wood for winter, Abdul Hai Khatibi, the spokesman for the governor of the province, told CNN.
The kidnapped people were all shot and killed during a failed rescue attempt by security forces. One ISIS commander was killed in the fighting, according to Khatibi.
While ISIS is identified primarily with its presence in Iraq and Syria, US and coalition officials have long expressed concern about a growing presence in Afghanistan.
In July, US and Afghan Special Operations Forces conducted an airstrike in Afghanistan that targeted and killed ISIS leader Hafiz Sayed Khan.
US Department of Defense Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge released a statement in July that said Nangarhar province, east of Ghor, has been a “hotbed” for ISIS activity since the summer of 2015.
ISIS first emerged last year in the country’s east, gaining ground and support fast, often among disaffected Taliban or Afghan youth.
After years of war, the savagery and vision of Islam offered by the group appealed to some, though the Afghan offshoot’s link to the Syria-based leadership has been questioned. Many say in fact the Afghan ISIS fighters came from Pakistan and adopted the group’s branding in order to get financing.
“ISIS had a fairly significant presence in six or seven districts in Nangahar, now that’s probably down to three or four, but they also seem to be growing more and more in (nearby) Kunar,” Maj. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, Deputy Chief of Staff for US operations in Afghanistan, said in April.
“So when they feel pressure in one place they tend to go somewhere else to operate.”