June 16, 2018
An explosion has killed at least 26 people at a gathering of the Taliban and Afghan security officials in the eastern province of Nangarhar as the two sides were marking their unprecedented three-day ceasefire on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr Muslim holidays.
The reason for the explosion in the restive district of Bati Kot on Saturday is still unknown. Civilians and Taliban forces were reportedly among the casualties.
The Daesh terrorist group said it carried out the bombing targeting Taliban and Afghan forces but gave no details.
The blast took place as dozens of unarmed Taliban forces reportedly entered different Afghan cities on Saturday on the second day of Eid, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
While Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak met with Taliban forces in the capital Kabul on Saturday, Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces held prayers together in Bati Kot district.
In a scene which would have been unimaginable just a few days ago, armed Taliban forces who traveled by cars and motorbikes to Bati Kot waving Afghan and Taliban flags were greeted by Afghan forces at security checkpoints.
On the sidelines of their prayers ceremony in Bati Kot, the two sides hugged and took selfies with each other.
Villagers also gathered around Taliban forces, hugging them and posing for photos with the heavily-armed fighters during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations.
“I am here to offer greetings to our brothers in the police and army,” AFP quoted Taliban commander Baba as saying.
“We have held the ceasefire well so far. Everyone is tired of war and if our leaders order us to continue the ceasefire, we will hold it forever,” he added.
Afghan govt. announces extension of ceasefire with Taliban
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced Saturday an extension of the government’s week-long ceasefire with the Taliban, as both sides observed a halt in hostilities for Eid.
In a televised address to the nation, Ghani also asked the Taliban to extend their three-day ceasefire which is due to end Sunday.
“I order the security forces to remain on their defensive positions,” Ghani said, adding details of the extension would be released later.
Ghani had declared an unconditional week-long ceasefire with the Taliban on June 7, but the offer excluded Daesh and other terrorist outfits.
The truce would last “from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid al-Fitr,” Ghani tweeted from an official account, indicating it could run from June 12 to 19.
On June 9, the Taliban announced in a statement that it had agreed to the truce deal proposed by the Afghan government.
The Taliban said foreign forces would be excluded from the ceasefire and operations would continue against them, adding that they would “strongly defend” themselves against any attack.
The Taliban themselves, however, announced a truce of their own starting on Friday.
Ghani’s Truce offer came a few days after over 2,000 Afghan religious scholars issued a fatwa (religious decree) outlawing bombings and demanding that the Taliban accept the government’s peace offer in order to prevent further bloodshed.
The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end when the US and its allies invaded the country on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror.
The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but, ever since, the group has been involved in widespread militancy, killing thousands of civilians as well as Afghan security forces and displacing tens of thousands of people across the country.
More recently, Daesh has also taken advantage of the chaos and established a foothold in eastern and northern Afghanistan.
The Takfiri outfit has stepped up its terror attacks in the war-torn country after losing its bases in Iraq and Syria despite the presence of thousands of US-led foreign troops on Afghan soil.