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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Six senior Afghan ISIS commanders and a group of fighters have abandoned the extremist group amid reports it was too violent, two top Taliban officials told NBC News.
The former ISIS commanders, judges and fighters pledged allegiance to the Taliban's leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, on Monday, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid and another Taliban commander who spoke on condition of anonymity.
NBC News was not able to independently confirm this account, and the exact number that defected was not immediately known.
While the Taliban is known for its strict interpretation of Islamic law, fierce opposition to democracy and attacks on government and foreign troops, violence employed by its new rivals has shocked some.
Mullah Abdul Jabbbar, a Taliban commander in Nangarhar, said villagers had become tired with ISIS because of its harsh treatment of civilians.
"Their brutality and inhuman activities earned them foes but it helped us as not only the common Afghan but their own commanders and fighters started hating them and their policies," Mullah Abdul Jabbbar said.
The central ISIS leadership had ordered villages burned, seized cattle and beheaded villagers, he added.
The announcement in July that the Taliban's leader and founder Mullah Omar had actually been dead for two years triggered a leadership crisis in the group. It also came as ISIS made inroads in parts of the eastern and southern Afghanistan. In December ISIS released a highly produced video calling the Taliban deviant.
On April 5, some commanders have told NBC News that their main enemy was ISIS not the U.S., which has been trying to root out the Taliban since helping remove the group from power in 2001.
"Daesh is a real threat as they are snatching our people and increasing its writ in Afghanistan," a commander told NBC News on condition of anonymity on April on 5, using another name for ISIS.