Kabul Says Afghan Forces Free 149 Hostages Seized By Taliban

21 August, 2018, 08:45 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • The ceasefire was announced after days of fighting in the central city of Ghani

The uptick in violence counters the US military's narrative of progress in its longest war, now in its 17th year, and happened prior to an expected cease-fire over the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins Tuesday.

Speaking during a gathering to mark the 99th Independence Day of Afghanistan, President Ghani said the government announces ceasefire with the Taliban, starting from Monday until Eid Milad un Nabi (Birth of Prophet Mohammad), on the condition that the Taliban group also announces a ceasefire. He added at least seven Taliban fighters have been killed in the fighting so far.

Provincial Governor Naqibullah Fayeq said on August 19 that the Balcharagh district fell into the hands of Taliban fighters late on August 18 following several days of heavy clashes because the Afghan soldiers did not receive reinforcements.

Rahimi said that after Afghan security forces freed 149, the insurgents were still holding 21 hostages from the buses.

The Taliban, which controls or contests half of Afghanistan, wants direct talks with the US because it views Ghani's government as illegitimate.

The buses, carrying passengers from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces, were on their way to the capital, Kabul, according to Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief of the Takhar province.

The incident came a day after US -backed President Ashraf Ghani called for a temporary cease-fire with the Taliban to coincide with the holiday.

The Taliban have yet to respond formally to the latest truce offer. The U.S. has long insisted on an "Afghan-led" peace process between the government and the Taliban but recently has indicated it would be open to direct talks with the insurgents.

It would only cover the Taliban, not other groups including Islamic State, officials said.

However, a Taliban spokesman said the militants were conducting their own investigations to determine if any of the remaining hostages work for the Afghan government or security forces.

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.

Taliban sources said earlier that their leaders had provisionally agreed on a four-day truce, although supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada still had to give his final approval.

Mujahid said top leaders had not declared a ceasefire, but they would release at least 500 prisoners, including members of the Afghan security forces on Monday, a day before Eid celebrations begin.

Fighting has been mounting in the Taliban's insurgency against the government in Kabul and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation coalition forces, launched after the Islamist group was ousted from power in a USA -led military intervention in 2001.



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