Afghan president offers Taliban new provisional ceasefire

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 20, 2018

The Taliban militants have kidnapped at least 170 passengers from the highway connecting Kunduz with the northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, says the insurgents still hold 21 others hostage following their ambush of a convoy of buses traveling in the Khan Abad district on Monday.

A provincial council member in Kunduz said "a total of 300 to 400 passengers" could have been on the buses when the militants stopped them.

A Taliban spokesman said they were targeting security forces travelling on the buses, adding the civilians would be released.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a conditional cease-fire with Taliban insurgents for the duration of the Eid al-Adha holiday.

"It is our hope, and that of the global community, that the Afghan people may celebrate Eid al-Adha this year in peace, free from fear", he added, referring to the Islamic holiday that starts next week.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, a police chief in neighbouring Takhar province, said the passengers had been on their way to Kabul.

This month the Taliban fought an intense battle with Afghan forces to control the strategically important city of Ghazni.

"So far, there is no news on the fate of the passengers, but tribal elders and local officials are trying to negotiate with the Taliban", Ayubi added.

On Saturday, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah, said that there will be no peace in the country as long as the "foreign occupation" continues.

The Taliban have resurged in recent years, seizing districts across the country and regularly carrying out large-scale attacks.

President Ashraf Ghani said it would come into effect on Monday if the Taliban accepted, but the militants have not responded yet.

Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the eastern city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kabul and the capital of a province with the same name.

They have warned they will be releasing 500 prisoners, including some Afghan security forces.

Afghan security forces, beset by killings, desertions and low morale, have taken staggering losses since US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat forces pulled out at the end of 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the ceasefire and said the United States was ready to support and facilitate direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Since then, American forces, now in a training and advising role, have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces.

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