Published: Wed, June 20, 2018

Taliban and Afghan govt forces ceasefire to celebrate religious holiday

Taliban and Afghan govt forces ceasefire to celebrate religious holiday

A auto bomb killed at least 26 people at a gathering of Taliban and Afghan armed forces in the eastern city of Nangarhar on Saturday, an official said, as soldiers and militants celebrated an unprecedented Eid ceasefire. The Taliban's leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, on Monday separately announced a three-day truce to mark the Eid holiday.

Afghan journalists, students and diplomats have all reported witnessing the unusual scenes of reconciliation via Twitter over the past two days. Photos and videos purported to show handshakes and hugs in many parts of the country.

However, the mood of optimism was overshadowed by a blast Saturday in the eastern Nangarhar province, with both Taliban and civilians among at least 20 people killed, according to local officials. The wounded have been taken to hospitals for treatment, he said. The group's Amaq news agency said the target was "a gathering of Afghan forces" but gave no details.

An Afghan official says the death toll from a suicide bombing against a gathering of Taliban fighters celebrating a holiday cease-fire has risen to 36. "We are seeing an increase in attacks on a daily basis", Imran, 13, said. "Fortunately, there's also consensus among the worldwide community on peace in Afghanistan".

Afghan and U.S. forces launched a counteroffensive against the ISIS affiliate in March 2017 with the aim of driving it out of Afghanistan.

"UNAMA welcomes the announcement made today by President Ghani to extend the ceasefire with the Taliban beyond Eid-ul-Fitr", Tolo News quoted UNAMA's statement.

CNN can not independently verify those images, but a freelance journalist confirmed he saw similar scenes in Logar province on Friday and Saturday.

A Kabul police spokesperson said many Taliban handed over their weapons as they entered the city, but in other cities, the insurgents walked through the crowds carrying weapons. Their weapons would be returned when they leave, he said.

Within hours of the explosion President Ashraf Ghani announced he would extend a nine-day cease-fire that was to expire on Sunday and which he had unilaterally announced last week. For the first time we felt safe.


"We have no intention to extend the ceasefire", said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. The truce does not include USA counterterrorism efforts against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

"[Mr. Guterres] believes that the only solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is through an inclusive political process", said the United Nations spokesperson's statement, adding that the world body stands ready to work with the Afghan people and Government, and all stakeholders to achieve lasting peace in the country.

A senior council member said the ceasefire could be extended if a date was established for US forces to withdraw from Afghanistan.

"The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in these discussions", Pompeo said in a statement.

Afghanistan has suffered a recent uptick in violence despite reports in March that suggested some factions of the Taliban had expressed interest in pursuing peace talks with the Afghan government.

"The Government's extension of the ceasefire provides a clear opportunity for initiating a negotiated solution to the conflict". They would, however, continue attacking US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops.

The Taliban have steadily expanded their presence in recent years, seizing a number of districts across the country and carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces.

The ceasefires, which follow months of deteriorating security, especially in the capital, Kabul, have coincided with the start of the soccer World Cup and the Afghan cricket team's test match debut against India.

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