KABUL, Afghanistan — ISIS took aim at a vulnerable Taliban in a new video released Monday, saying the Afghan group's leadership had deviated from the righteous Muslim path.
The highly produced video distributed by ISIS' official Telegram channel comes five days after news emerged that the Taliban's recently installed leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had been badly wounded in a shootout with other militants. While the Taliban later issued an audio statement it claimed came from Mansour himself, rumors persist that he was killed and the movement's leadership is hiding his death.
Fighters linked to ISIS have been making inroads in the region by luring members of the Taliban who are unhappy with the Afghan group's leadership. The Taliban has been battling the government in Kabul since it was toppled by U.S.-backed forces in 2001.
In the video, a man identifying himself as Abu Yasir Al-Afghani accuses the Taliban of working with neighboring Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI — a claim denied by Pakistan — and of protecting shrines deemed un-Islamic by extremist ISIS. He also condemns alleged ties between the Taliban and Iran, which as a Shiite Muslim state is despised by Sunni extremists.
Messages in Arabic and Pashto, the language spoken by the vast majority of the Taliban's ethnic Pashtun fighters and followers, upped the rhetoric markedly on the embattled Taliban.
"My message to the Muslim of people of the province of Khorasan and to those youth who are fighting in the ranks of the Taliban is that, the doors of the Islamic State is open for you," declared Al-Afghani. The province of Khorasan is a historic name of the territory covering modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and surrounding areas.
At the start of the video a voice in Arabic intones: "For those who wanted right from the Taliban, come to Islamic State, before they make you and the Afghan Army one entity in the name of nationalism."