Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts monitor and analyse ongoing conflicts, peace processes and other global issues from human rights violations, migration, environment, gender to terrorism. As a two-minute read, Conflict Alerts bring to the academic community periodic early warning analyses by young scholars in 300-400 words. The alerts in this section follow a structured approach: initially explaining the event, followed by the issue at large and the scholar's perspective in the end.

Sections of these viewpoints are published as part of our weekly analysis of the conflict and peace processes in the world sent in the form of an e-alert called the Conflict Weekly. If you would like to receive these Alerts as and when published, kindly send an email to subachandran@nias.res.in.

Conflict Alerts # 620, 28 March 2024

Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K): A profile
Alka Bala

On 22 March, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in a statement claimed responsibility for the attacks through the ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq on Telegram. According to the statement, which was not backed by evidence, ISIS stated that its fighters attacked Moscow “killing and wounding hundreds and causing great destruction to the place before they withdrew to their bases safely.” On 23 March, ISIS stated the attacks to be part of its war against countries fighting Islam

Since its inception in 2014, the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) has acted as an IS affiliate in Central Asia. Khorasan refers to a geographic region comprising parts of present-day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Post IS-K declaration of allegiance to the IS’ global “Ummah,” its leadership has extended support and financial resources to develop its Central Asian network. 

Base in Afghanistan
The IS-K is believed to have its primary presence in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, focusing its activities around Kabul and the provinces of Kunar, Jowzjan, Paktia, Kunduz, and Herat. Its objectives include establishing Islamic Caliphate in South and Central Asia and implementing Sharia. By 2016, the number of IS-K fighters was estimated to be between 3000 to 4000; however, this declined subsequently. 

Leadership and support base
According to reports available, in 2014, IS-K was led by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Hafiz Saeed Khan and former Taliban commander Abdul Rauf Khadim as the deputy. Khan engaged other significant TTP members, its spokesperson Sheikh Maqbool, and district chiefs to form the first Khorasan Shura, the leadership council. Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, also referred to as Pakistani Taliban, was formed to fight against NATO forces in Afghanistan, undertaking “defensive jihad” against Pakistan and enforcing Sharia. 

Its membership and support base comprised of Pakistani militants, estranged members of TTP and Lashkar-e Islam. According to the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, certain “members of  had also defected to IS-K.” IS-K’s founding emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan, and the chiefs, including Abdul Hasib, Abu Sayed, and Abu Saad Orakzai, were exterminated in targeted strikes by the US in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. These leaders were part of militant movements in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Sanaullah Ghafari, the emir who led IS-K since June 2020, was killed by Taliban’s security forces in Kunar province of Afghanistan. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid stated that since August 2021, “their security forces have arrested and imprisoned up to 1,700 IS-K militants and killed close to 1,100 others, including key commanders.” 

Areas of operations, ideology and strategies involved
IS-K’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan are aimed at questioning the legitimacy of the government. It views nation-states as illegitimate and disrupts democratic processes. Clashes between IS-K and Taliban exist and IS-K pose security threats to the Taliban government. Under Sanaullah Ghafari’s leadership, IS-K focused on expansion and recruitment in Central Asia and increasing attacks in Kabul, mostly targeting Shia Muslims and other religious minorities.

IS-K and the Taliban adhere to contrasting ideologies and ideas of nationalism. IS-K is committed to Salafism and considers the Taliban’s commitment to the Sunni Islamic sectarian school, as flawed. The Taliban’s aim included rule over Afghanistan and the strictest interpretation of Sharia for governance, whereas IS-K believes in expanding the Caliphate beyond the internationally ordained borders. IS-K also has accused the Taliban of carrying out peace negotiations in “posh hotels” in Doha, instead of continuing jihad on the battleground. Although the groups carry out operations against each other, there remains scope for local collaboration as they are connected via the Haqqani network, which mainly consists of Taliban defectors.

IS-K believes that the jihad in Khorasan is a blessing of Allah and further justifies its fights with disbelievers. Since IS-K believes that the Islamic Caliphate is not limited to a country, IS-K does not recognise the legitimacy of international borders. It views its territories beyond the national borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan and aims to establish and expand the Caliphate in Southern and Central Asia. The end goal remains to be the implementation of Shariah in these regions. Although  IS-K has been involved in acts abroad it majorly carries out violence locally. 

Its strategies include deepening existing sectarianism, exiting poor economic conditions to create instability further and delegitimising the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It uses methods such as military-style assaults, ambushes, beheadings and bombings to achieve its goals, targeting foreign aid workers, ethnic minorities and civilians, who appear opposing to the interpretation of Sharia. Between 2017-2018, IS-K launched 84 attacks in Afghanistan and 11 in Pakistan, killing 819 and 338 civilians, respectively. Abroad, IS-K has conducted attacks in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and it has claimed responsibility for carrying out two explosions in Iran in January 2024, killing 100 people and wounding 284 people on the fourth death anniversary of Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani. It also targeted Russia by bombing the Russian embassy in Kabul in September 2022 and in 2024, by directly attacking civilians at the concert in Moscow.

March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 619
Russia: ISIS terror attack in Moscow
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 618
Gaza: Finally, a UN Security Council Resolution
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 617
Haiti: Continuing political instability 
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 614
Continuing Kidnappings in Nigeria
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 613
The War in Gaza: The Elusive Search for a Ceasefire
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 606
Ukraine: The Battle for Avdiivka
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 605
War expands to Rafah, the border town
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 604
Senegal: Protests amidst the postponement of elections

February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 601
UNRWA relief fund shutdown exacerbates crises
January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 600
Haiti: Continuing Violence and Kidnappings 

January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 599
The Red Sea Crisis: Attacks and Counter Attacks
January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 597
Middle East: Blinken's Fourth Visit
March 2023 | Conflict Alert # 595
Israel-Palestine: Return of violence
March 2023 | Conflict Alert # 594
Ukraine: Battle for Bakhmut
February 2023 | Conflict Alert # 591
France: Continued protests against pension reform
February 2023 | Conflict Alert # 588
US: Air Force shoots down Chinese balloon

January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 586
Israel: Protests against proposed judicial reforms
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 585
Sweden: Anti-Islamic protests
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 583
Peru: Fresh protests and continuing political crisis
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 577
Ukraine: A new military push, worsening the situation
December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 576
The EU: The new gas price capping regulation

December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 573
Russia: Drone attacks escalate the Ukraine war
December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 572
Pakistan: TTP ends ceasefire with the government

November 2022 | Conflict Alert # 568
Ukraine: The Russian withdrawal from Kherson

November 2022 | Conflict Alert # 567
Pakistan: The assassination attempt on Imran Khan
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 563
Global Hunger Index: Four Takeaways
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 561
Haiti: Gang violence and beyond
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 560
Reducing Inequality Index 2022: Three Takeaways

October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 559
China: UNHRC proceeding on Xinjiang
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 556
Iran: Protests spark against hijab rules

September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 555
EU's food waste 2022: Three takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 553
Global Estimates of Modern Slavery 2021: Six takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 551
Ukraine: Counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 550
The UN report on Xinjiang: Four Takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 549
Drought in Europe, August 2022: Four Takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 547
Iraq: Al-Sadr Withdraws, Protests Intensify
August 2022 | Conflict Alert # 546
Europe: Heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts
August 2022 | Conflict Alert # 539
Iraq: The escalating political crisis
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 536
The US: Wildfires in California, again

July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 531
Sudan: Military steps down, following protests
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 530
Sri Lanka: Continuing economic crisis
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 527
Libya: The continuing political stalemate
May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 516
The US: Another school attack kills 19 children

May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 512
Ukraine: 75 days of the war

May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 511
Ethiopia: Rising communal tensions
May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 510
Sri Lanka: Political crisis intensifies
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 507
Afghanistan: The rise of sectarian violence
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 506
Mexico: Protests over continuing femicides
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 501
Israel: Al-Aqsa Mosque raids
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 500
Ukraine: The battle for Donbas

April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 499
Russia: The strategic shift from Kyiv to the Donbas
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 498
Nigeria: Over 100 killed in another gunmen attack
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 497
Ukraine: Russia's battle for Mariupol
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 496
Yemen: Finally, a ceasefire

March 2022 | Conflict Alert # 491
The worsening economic crisis in Sri Lanka
March 2022 | Conflict Alert # 488
Russia’s Ukraine Invasion: One Week Later

February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 486
Russia’s Ukraine salami slicing
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 485
Libya: With two Prime Ministers, a new political crisis
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 481
Canada: Freedom convoys and a new wave of protests
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 478
Myanmar: One year after the coup
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 477
Syria: The ISIS attack on a prison
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 476
Yemen: The warzone expands in the Houthi-UAE face-off

January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 475
Burkina Faso: Another coup in Africa
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 474
France: New round of protests over COVID-19 passes
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 472
Ukraine: Threat of Russian invasion

January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 470
Iran: Two years after Qasem Soleimani
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 468
Kazakhstan: Bloody unrest and a brutal crackdown

December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 466
COVID-19: Omicron rapidly spreads across countries
December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 464
Ukraine: The West warns Russia over Ukrainian aggression

December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 463
China: 12 million missing children
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 459
Europe: Restrictions lead to Widespread Protests
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 457
Cuba: Between bouts of demonstrations
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 454
Pakistan: A month-long ceasefire with the TTP
October 2021 | Conflict Alert # 447
The US: Protests against the Texas anti-abortion law

October 2021 | Conflict Alert # 444
Brazil: Anti-Bolsonaro protests across the country
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 441
Yemen: Houthis continue to capture territories
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 439
Europe: Pride Marches in Serbia and Ukraine

September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 437
Brazil: Protestors call for the impeachment of Bolsonaro
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 435
Guinea: Another coup in Africa

September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 431
Climate Change: Hurricane Ida destructs the US Gulf Coast

August 2021 | Conflict Alert # 422
Europe: Measures to curb pandemic trigger protests
August 2021 | Conflict Alert # 418
Peru: Protests a sign of challenges facing Castillo
July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 411
Wildfires: Siberia to the US

July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 409
Bosnia: 26 years after the Srebrenica Massacre
July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 405
Colombia: Two months of protests
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 399
Myanmar: New UNGA resolution

June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 397
Myanmar: The Aung San Suu Kyi trial begins
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 390
Burkina Faso: Another massacre in Africa
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 386
Nigeria: Another mass abduction grips Niger state
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 385
Colombia: The protests continue
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 382
Israel-Hamas ceasefire: The long road to peace
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 380
Colombia: Three weeks of protests
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 378
Israel-Palestine: Who wants what?
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 374
Yemen: The Battle for Marib rages on
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 371
Pakistan: Meetings with Afghan leaders

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 369
Israel-Syria: Continuing Missile Strikes
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 358
India: Another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 356
Global Gender Gap Report 2021: Main Takeaways
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 353
Niger: 137 massacred in the latest attack by gunmen
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 351
Yemen: Saudi Arabia announces ceasefire
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 347
Australia: Women fight against sexual violence 
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 345
The US: The George Floyd trial begins
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 340
Syria: UN report calls for a complete ceasefire

February 2021 | Conflict Alert # 333
South Korea: The 'Comfort Women' issue returns to haunt
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 222
Russia: Pro-Navalny protests turn anti-government 
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 220
COVID-19: The Vaccine Wars

December 2020 | Conflict Alert # 200
India: Farmers' protests intensify as deadlock persists

November 2020 | Conflict Alert # 191
Pakistan: Anti-French protests called off
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 174
Bangladesh: Protests intensify against sexual violence
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 167
India crosses 6 million-mark in COVID-19 cases
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 166
Pakistan: The persisting polio problem
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 156
Pakistan: Targeted Violence continues in Waziristan

September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 154
The anti-Racist Protests in the US: Between
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 148
Israel and UAE normalize relations

August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 146
Bolivia: Protests against the Election postponement
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 138
In Iraq, the protestors return to the streets 
July 2020 | Conflict Alert # 118
J&K: Geelani's Exit and Continuing Violence
June 2020 | Conflict Alert # 105
Black Lives Matter brings the US to its knees
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 86
Libya: Khalifa Haftar announces ceasefire 
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 81
India: The surge in violence in J&K
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 71
Afghanistan: 300 Taliban prisoners released

April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 67
Syria: New UN Report on Idlib

April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 64
A lethal impact on the Refugee/Migrant Camps 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 51
Coronavirus & China: Fall in numbers 

March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 47
Coronavirus & Nepal: In the second stage, cancels

March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 44
Two Presidents in Afghanistan
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 42
'Aurat March': A New beginning across Pakistan 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 38
Sri Lanka withdraws from 30/1 Geneva Resolution
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 35
A ceasefire between Israel, Islamic Jihad in Gaza

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 34
Libya: rivals withdraw from Geneva peace talks
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 33
India: Violence in Delhi
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 32
Afghanistan: Seven Days of Peace
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 31
Climate Change Fallouts: Impacts the Bird population

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 28
Pakistan: Court convicts LeT founder Hafiz Saeed
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 27
Pakistan: Suicide terrorism returns to haunt Quetta

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 26
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban Seven Day Deal
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 24
Israel: Violence in post  Trump-deal
January 2020 | Conflict Alert # 20
Kenya: Al Shabab and a week of killings
December 2019 | Conflict Alert # 19
Citizenship Amendment Bill:2019

November 2019 | Conflict Alert # 18
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue 
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 16
Bolivian unrest
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 15
Hundreds protest in Haiti

October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 14
Protests rock Chile
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 13
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 12
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 11
Turkey's Offensive in Syria

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 9
Africa to be Polio Free
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 7
Myanmar: Teenage girls traded as brides to China

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 6
Moscow Protests: Thousands rally in Moscow
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 3
Jordan Restores diplomatic ties with Qatar