Auto bomb tears through joyous Eid cease-fire in Afghanistan

Geraldine Edwards
June 20, 2018

Among the dead were Taliban fighters, Khogyani 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.

Ghani made his announcement in a rare televised address to the nation, in which he also asked the Taliban to extend their three-day ceasefire which is due to end Sunday.

Afghanistan's Taliban has rejected an extension to a three-day cease-fire coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the suicide attack in Jalalabad city, outside the office of the Nangarhar provincial governor.

The Taliban's statement added that their cease-fire was for their fighters to celebrate the holiday peacefully and not in response to the government's cease-fire announcement. The wounded were taken to hospitals for treatment, he said.

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Waving their white flag, a number of Taliban militants though unarmed entered the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday after being allowed by government authorities amid an ongoing truce between the warring sides.

With the ceasefire due to end Sunday night, fighting is likely to resume on Monday.

In describing their perspective on peace talks, the Taliban have repeatedly brought up the presence of foreign forces and have said they want to talk to the Americans rather than the Afghan government.

Mullah Fazlullah was allegedly killed in a strike on June 13 in the Dangam district of Kunar province in Afghanistan.

An Afghan security source confirmed the suicide attack but gave a lower death toll of at least 10.

"We offer our deepest condolences to the families of those martyred and all those whose joyous celebration was impacted by this attack on peace, which ISIS-K claimed", O'Donnell said in a statement.

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Fazlullah had directed numerous high-profile attacks against the United States and Pakistani targets since he was appointed the group's leader in 2013, including the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people, including more than 130 children.

He said a bomber on foot blew himself up among a crowd of Taliban fighters, local elders and civilians leaving the governor's compound after attending a special event for Eid.

Pakistan has often accused U.S. and Afghan forces of not doing enough to target TTP forces living on the Afghan side of the volatile Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where they fled following a series of military operations by Pakistan.

Civilians also flocked to greet the militants, who had left their posts or areas under their control to celebrate the halt in hostilities, which had fuelled hopes among war-weary Afghans that peace was possible.

"Ghani has full blessings of the U.S. administration and it is crucial for the U.S. officials to prove that (U.S. President Donald) Trump's policies are working and talks with the Afghan Taliban are imminent", said a senior diplomat who met Afghan officials on Sunday to discuss the chance of back-channel talks with Taliban leaders.

"We are calling on the Taliban, they saw in the media that in villages and districts and all parts of the country people called for the ceasefire to be extended extending and for directs talks".

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American forces and NATO's non-combatant Resolute Support in Afghanistan welcomed an extension of the cease-fire by Ghani and his offer to begin peace talks with the Taliban.

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