Afghanistan: At least 17 killed in Eid auto blast

  • Afghanistan: At least 17 killed in Eid auto blast

Afghanistan: At least 17 killed in Eid auto blast

Afghans flocked to mosques on Friday to mark Eidul Azha as a three-day ceasefire between Taliban and government forces began, with many hoping it would lead to peace talks and the end of almost two decades of conflict.

The Taliban and the United States government signed the accord in February.

"To show goodwill and accelerate the peace talks, we will release 500 Taliban prisoners in response to the group's three-day ceasefire announcement", Ghani said in an Eid address.

"The SIGAR report cites Resolute Support as commenting that "[Enemy] violence levels stayed well above historic norms for the majority of the reporting period with reduced violence occurring during the three-day Eid cease fire (May 24-26, 2020) ... No surprise, the Afghan government initially balked at letting 5,000 Taliban prisoners out of jail and the March 10 date soon slid by.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani on Friday ordered the release of 500 Taliban prisoners as part of a new ceasefire that could lead into long-delayed peace talks. The Taliban refused to sit for negotiations unless all of their 5,000 prisoners were released.

"I do not have the right to decide on the release of those 400 Taliban prisoners who are accused of serious crimes", Ghani said, adding that a gathering of Afghan elders would decide their fate.

However the two Taliban and two diplomatic sources said the insurgent group was insistent on its demand for the release of the remaining 400 prisoners on the list.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was in Kabul on Wednesday to discuss the need to keep violence down by all sides after the ceasefire and the completion of the prisoner exchange, according to a statement by the US embassy in Kabul. "Five-thousand prisoners of the Taliban will be released, and 1,000 prisoners of Afghans security forces will be released", he told VOA Thursday.

The negotiations will include a political team of Taliban and a team of Afghans representing various political factions, activists, women, and Afghan civil society.

The president also condemned two recent terrorist attacks, which killed 33 civilians and injured more than 100.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has blamed the Taliban for the bulk of civilian casualties during the first half of 2020. The Taliban claimed they were not responsible for the clash.

Many Afghans are leery about what comes next. After two previous ceasefires - in 2018 and May this year - the Taliban immediately returned to the battlefield.

US officials have repeatedly called on the Taliban to reduce violence, but it's evident that the Taliban have a different understanding of the February 29 agreement than the USA government or the Afghan government.

He said other ideas put forward were releasing the prisoners without publicly announcing it, agreeing to release prisoners shortly after negotiations start, or persuading the Taliban to compromise on the most contentious 200 prisoners.