Militants stormed the national television and radio station in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad today, triggering a gunfight as journalists remained trapped inside the building, officials and eyewitnesses said. No insurgent group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack in Nangarhar province, a hotbed of Islamic State jihadists, where the US military dropped a massive bomb last month.
“Three gunmen entered the RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan) building this morning,” government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP. “Two of them have been killed and one is still resisting.” An RTA photographer said he fled the building as soon as the gunfight erupted, but some of his colleagues were still stuck inside.
Islamic State insurgents are active in Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital. Last month the US military dropped its largest non- nuclear bomb in Nangarhar, killing dozens of IS militants. Dubbed the “Mother Of All Bombs”, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast was unleashed in combat for the first time, hitting IS positions in a remote area of the province.
The unprecedented attack triggered global shock waves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban. According to the US Forces-Afghanistan, defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the local IS presence from a peak of as many as 3,000 fighters to a maximum of 800.
The Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban. US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity — a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.