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The offensive, part of the Afghan armys Operation Shafaq, began on Saturday, hours after the IS group claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in the capital Kabul that killed around 80 people. Check Out Your URLThe attack targeted ethnic Hazaras, who are also Shiite Muslims – considered apostates by IS – who were demonstrating to demand that a regional electrical project to be rerouted through their province of Bamiyan to boost economic growth in the impoverished central highlands. More than 200 people were wounded in the worst attack in Kabul since the Talibans insurgency began in 2001. It was also the first major attack in the city claimed by IS, raising concerns about their strength and capabilities in Afghanistan. Until recently, Afghan and U.S. officials have insisted that IS loyalists were disaffected Taliban weary that their own fight had failed to make headway, after 15 years, in its goal of overthrowing the Kabul government. This week, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, said that IS operatives in Afghanistan numbered between 1,000 and 3,000 loyalists – though probably closer to 1,500.

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