ISIS says they've captured Afghanistan's Tora Bora caves once used by Osama bin Laden

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, June 15 (Reuters) - Pressed by Afghan and U.S. forces, Islamic State militants have seized a new stronghold in Tora Bora, a mountainous area dotted with caves along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, officials said on Thursday.

The remote region in Nangarhar province was most famously used by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in late 2001, in a bid to hold out against the U.S. troops and Afghan allies who toppled the Taliban regime.

Now Afghan officials say Islamic State militants have seized cave complexes in Tora Bora, after days of fighting against Taliban who had been based there.

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Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani Ocotber 8, 2014. U.S.-led air strikes on Wednesday pushed Islamic State fighters back to the edges of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, which they had appeared set to seize after a three-week assault, local officials said. The town has become the focus of international attention since the Islamists' advance drove 180,000 of the area's mostly Kurdish inhabitants to flee into adjoining Turkey, which has infuriated its own restive Kurdish minority-- and its NATO partners in Washington -- by refusing to intervene. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Pictures showing an ISIL Command and Control Center in Syria before (L) and after it was struck by bombs dropped by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet are seen in handouts released by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) September 23, 2014. This was the first time the F22 was used in a combat role according to the DOD. The United States and its Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time on Tuesday, killing scores of Islamic State fighters and members of a separate al Qaeda-linked group, opening a new front against militants by joining Syria's three-year-old civil war. REUTERS/US Department of Defense/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY CONFLICT) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
In this photograph taken on April 11, 2017, smoke rises after an air strike by US aircraft on positions during an ongoing an operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in the Achin district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. An American special forces soldier has been killed while conducting operations against the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, the US military said.�The US-backed Afghan military has vowed to wipe out the group in its strongholds in the eastern province of Nangarhar as IS challenges the more powerful Taliban on its own turf. / AFP PHOTO / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA (Photo credit should read NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)
A still image captured from U.S. Navy video footage shows a Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile (TLAM) is launched against ISIL targets from the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea in the Gulf, September 23, 2014. The United States and Arab allies hit Islamic State (IS) targets including training camps, headquarters and weapon supplies in northern and eastern Syria in dozens of air and missile strikes on Tuesday, the U.S. military and a monitoring group said. REUTERS/Abe McNatt/U.S. Navy/Handout (MID-SEA - Tags: MILITARY CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Smoke rises after an air strike on Islamic State (IS) militants positions during an ongoing operation against the group in the Achin district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province on April 14, 2017, a day after the US military struck the district with its largest non-nuclear bomb. The US military's largest non-nuclear bomb killed dozens of Islamic State militants as it smashed their mountain hideouts, Afghan officials said April 14, ruling out any civilian casualties despite the weapon's destructive capacity. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb -- dubbed the 'Mother Of All Bombs' -- hit IS positions in Achin district in eastern Nangarhar province on April 13. / AFP PHOTO / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA (Photo credit should read NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Photo taken on 30 January 2017 in Mosul, Iraq. Destroyed hospital. Saalam hospital was targeted by a U.S. Coalition airstrike in December, 2016 as it was a base for Islamic State commanders. 16th Division command and control the east side of the city. The soldiers are engaged in the search for militants ISIS. The army protects the eastern bank of the Tigris. Soldiers take up positions on the roofs of buildings of which observe areas next to the river. (Photo by Maciej Moskwa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 7: Smoke rises from Daesh terrorists positions after U.S.-led coalition's airstrike over east of Bashiqa town in Mosul, Iraq on November 7, 2016. Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government's peshmerga forces entered Bashiqa Town center as the operation to retake Iraq's Mosul from Daesh terrorists continues, in Mosul. A much anticipated Mosul offensive to liberate the city from Daesh began midnight of 16th of October 2016. (Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers on November 14, 2015 in Sinjar, Iraq. Kurdish forces, with the aid of months of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, liberated the town from ISIL extremists, known in Arabic as Daesh, in recent days. Although the battle was deemed a major victory, much of the city lay in complete ruins. (Photo by Andrea DiCenzo/NurPhoto) (Photo by Andrea DiCenzo/NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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"Those areas around Tora Bora were a Taliban stronghold, but now Daesh militants captured them during fighting," the police commander in the area, Shah Wali, told Reuters, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid acknowledged that Islamic State forces had managed to capture several villages, but he denied that they had seized Tora Bora.

General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has vowed to defeat Islamic State there this year, and in April used one of the largest conventional bombs ever dropped in combat to target a cave complex used by Islamic State in the nearby district of Achin.

"After Achin, Daesh was looking for a second stronghold and now they have it," Wali said.

Abu Omar Khorasani, an Islamic State commander in Afghanistan, told Reuters that his fighters had seized Tora Bora and were also battling government troops, who are backed by U.S. ground troops and aircraft.

"We are in Tora Bora but this is not the end," Khorasani said. "The plan is to take more territory from the government and the Taliban."

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The fighting has sent hundreds of families fleeing, said Malek Tor, a tribal elder who put the number of Islamic State fighters in the area in the hundreds.

Government forces have launched new operations targeting Islamic State, but more fighters are being recruited or crossing the border from Pakistan, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor's office.

"You kill one Daesh fighter and 10 more come from the border or are recruited here," he said. (Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)

RELATED: The Islamic State's underground training camp

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Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. The slogan reads, "We will conquer Roma God willing". REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
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