August 20, 2018
ISLAMABAD — Most of the bus passengers kidnapped by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan have been released following mediation by Afghan tribal elders.
Minister of Interior advisor Bahar Mehr said insurgents are still holding 12 passengers from three buses seized early Monday in Kunduz province.
Each bus had a capacity of 60 people and Afghanistan’s local ToloNews reported the buses had 170 passengers, including women and children.
The buses were on their way to Kabul from Takhar province when they were seized.
On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a three-month cease-fire, conditional on Taliban participation.
Taliban sources said their leadership would give instructions to their military commanders to cease fire for four days of Eid-al-Adha, but may not announce it officially.
Earlier, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the group would release a number of prisoners, to allow them to spend the Muslim holy festival Eid-al-Adha with their families. Afghanistan will celebrate the Eid festival beginning Tuesday.
The last time Ghani announced a cease-fire in June, for the Eid-al-Fitr festival, the Taliban reciprocated.
Taliban fighters headed to cities and offered prayers with their battlefield enemies in the security forces and took selfies with them. It was the first time in two decades of war when hostilities briefly ceased between the two sides.
“The last cease-fire in Afghanistan revealed the deep desire of the Afghan people to end the conflict, and we hope another ceasefire will move the country closer to sustainable security,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday. He added, “The U.S. is ready to “support, facilitate and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”