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IS claims it's taken bin Laden's Afghan hideout of Tora Bora

15 June 2017

The ISIS terrorist group claimed it has seized Osama bin Laden's infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout in eastern Afghanistan, saying its signature black flag was flying over the hulking mountain range.

The Taliban, however, dismissed the claim on Thursday, saying they were still in control of the cave complex that once housed the former al-Qaida leader.

Militants began their assault late on Tuesday night, and fighting with the Taliban and local villagers continued into the day on Wednesday.

The fighting has sent hundreds of families fleeing, said Malek Tor, a tribal elder who put the number of Islamic State fighters in the area in the hundreds.

The Tora Bora mountains hide a warren of caves in which al Qaeda militants led by bin Laden hid from US coalition forces in 2001, after the Taliban fled Kabul and before he fled to neighboring Pakistan.

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"ISIS has captured Tora Bora and areas around it", an Afghan police official said.

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The Taliban's spokesman for that area, however, denied that ISIS had taken the mountainous area.

About 700-1,000 ISIS fighters are thought to be in Afghanistan, and the MOAB strike was thought to have killed about 94 of them.

Islamic States' attack near Tora Bora comes two months after the USA dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in the world, known as the MOAB or Mother Of All Bombs, on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan, reportedly killing at least 36 IS militants.

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By Wednesday, ISIS seized some territory around Tora Bora - but not the bin Laden hideout itself, Khogyani said, adding that there were casualties on both sides.

Government forces have launched new operations targeting Islamic State, but more fighters are being recruited or crossing the border from Pakistan, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor's office.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the IS fighters gradually came to gain control of the area in the last three days, following almost week-long clashes between the two groups.

In April, the U.S. used its biggest non-nuclear bomb ever dropped against ISIS in Nangarhar, targeting a tunnel carved in the mountains.

While the United States estimates there are about 800 IS fighters in Afghanistan, mostly restricted to Nangarhar, other estimates say their ranks also include thousands of battle-hardened Uzbek militants.

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IS claims it's taken bin Laden's Afghan hideout of Tora Bora