Foreign fighters from countries including Canada were captured during an operation against ISIS in Afghanistan last November, according to a report to the United Nations Security Council.
The report said the Afghan security forces and Taliban had dealt a severe blow to the ISIS Khorasan group, or ISIL-K, displacing it from large parts of Nangarhar province, near the Pakistan border.
“More than 1,400 people surrendered to the Afghan authorities, including dependants of ISIL-K fighters,” the report said.
“Most males were Afghan nationals, but there were also foreign nationals from Azerbaijan, Canada, France, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.”
The Jan. 20 report by the team that monitors UN sanctions against ISIS is the first indication that Canadians may have fought with the terrorist group’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
“We are aware of these reports and have contacted the Afghan government for more information,” a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said on Monday.
Dozens of Canadians were captured by Kurdish forces during the collapse of ISIS in Syria last year, including at least a half-dozen fighters and their families, who remain in prisons and camps.
The federal government has struggled to deal with them, saying in documents obtained by Global News that investigations “pose unique and highly complex challenges.”
None yet face any charges in Canada.
The government also maintains it has no legal obligation to repatriate them but “remains engaged in these cases and will continue to provide assistance to the limited extent possible.”
The UN report did not identify the Canadians or indicate how many were captured, nor whether they remained in custody, but said Afghanistan remained a key battleground against ISIS.
“Afghanistan continues to be the conflict zone of greatest concern to member states outside the ISIL core area and suffers by some measures the heaviest toll from terrorism of any country in the world,” it said.
“Al-Qaida and foreign terrorist fighters aligned with it, under the protection and influence of the Taliban, pose a long-term global threat,” the report continued, adding that while ISIS had suffered losses in Afghanistan, it “has proved resilient in the past and is still assessed to pose a serious threat.”
The report also warned that ISIS had begun to reassert itself in Syria and Iraq, exploiting the weakening security environment to mount “increasingly bold insurgent attacks.”