Indian nationals were among the over 1,400 fighters of a blacklisted faction of the Islamic State terror group who surrendered to Afghan authorities last year, according to a UN report

The UN Security Council's 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in May last year blacklisted Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K), which is also known as ISIL's South Asia Branch, ISIL Khorasan, Islamic State's Khorasan Province and South Asian Chapter of ISIL.

The 25th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities said Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters were able to inflict "severe damage" on the ISIL-K, displacing it from large areas of the Nangarhar province.

"More than 1,400 people surrendered to the Afghan authorities, including dependants of ISIL-K fighters. Most males were Afghan nationals, but there were also foreign nationals from Azerbaijan, Canada, France, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan," the January 2020 report said, without giving a breakup of their numbers.

The impact on ISIL-K numbers may be significant. The group is "now assessed to have approximately 2,500 fighters in Afghanistan, with about 2,100 of them concentrated in the Kunar province", it said.

"There is a covert ISIL-K presence of up to 25 persons in Faryab province, led by former Taliban member Qari Salahuddin," the report said.

The ISIL-K is a branch of the militant Islamist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), active in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the UN report, ISIL-K continues recruitment via the Internet. It also conducts propaganda activities in madrasas and universities in Afghanistan, including in Kabul.

"Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan suffered severe losses and was largely expelled from its Afghan heartland of Nangarhar Province in November 2019, but it has proved resilient in the past and is still assessed to pose a serious threat," it said.

The report said ISIL-K has established informal contact with other terrorist groups, including Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-eIslam.

Beyond the ISIL core conflict zone, threats from Al-Qaeda and ISIL affiliates persist globally, especially in Afghanistan and its "immediate neighbourhood" as well as in parts of Africa and South-East Asia, it said.

Afghanistan continues to be the conflict zone of greatest concern to the UN member states outside the ISIL core area and suffers by some measures the heaviest toll from terrorism of any country in the world.

"Al-Qaeda and foreign terrorist fighters aligned with it, under the protection and influence of the Taliban, pose a long-term global threat," the report said.

Al-Qaeda remains resilient and increasingly threatening despite the confirmation last September of the death at an unspecified earlier date of its leadership figure Hamza Usama Muhammad Bin Laden, the report said.

It said Al-Qaeda is "concerned" about the current focus of the Taliban leadership on peace talks. "Al-Qaeda representatives undertook shuttle diplomacy, persuading various factions of the Taliban and field commanders not to support negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan and promising to increase financial support," the report said.

"If a peace agreement is reached, Al-Qaeda intends to develop a new narrative to justify continuing the armed conflict in Afghanistan.

"Relations with the Taliban continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection," it said, adding that this is evidenced by the operation in the Musa Qal'ah district of Helmand province in September in which some members of Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent were killed.

The report said there are an estimated 400 to 600 Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, mainly in the provinces of Khost, Kunar, Nuristan, Paktiya and Zabul.

The Monitoring Team noted that not all foreign terrorist fighters have been included in the available databases and watch lists.

Some Al-Qaeda and ISIL fighters, facilitators and new recruits may not have any adverse record or be listed and they, therefore, will not be detected or deterred from travelling during the screening process.

Separately, some Member States assert that in many instances they learned that their nationals had travelled to join the ISIL or Al-Qaeda affiliates long after these citizens had left their territory, been arrested or died in combat. In such instances, it is challenging to implement the travel restrictions.

The Monitoring Team recommended that the UN member states intensify and accelerate the timely exchange of relevant operational information regarding actions, movements and patterns of movements of terrorists to include foreign militants who are not listed on the ISIL (Da'esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.