KABUL, Afghanistan — Tora Bora, the mountain redoubt that was once Osama bin Laden’s fortress, fell to the Islamic State early Wednesday, handing the extremists a significant strategic and symbolic victory, according to Afghan officials and local elders and residents.
Taliban fighters who had previously controlled the extensive cave and tunnel complex fled overnight after a determined, weeklong assault by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, according to villagers fleeing the area on Wednesday.
A local Afghan police official confirmed that the fortress had fallen. “ISIS has captured Tora Bora and areas around it,” he said. “The tribal elders are here in my office. They all escaped the area last night.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban in that area, denied that Tora Bora had fallen to their rival insurgents. “Fighting is underway in the Tora Bora area between ISIS and our mujahedeen,” Mr. Mujahid said via the Viber messaging service. “It is the front line between our mujahedeen and ISIS . No one has advanced in the area.” NYT