Afghanistan Announces Ceasefire With Taliban To Mark Eid Holiday

Afghan President Offers Taliban Conditional Three-Month Cease-Fire

The official said Taliban members stopped three buses traveling from Badakhshan and Takhar to the capital Kabul early Monday morning and abducted roughly 150 passengers.

Afghan security forces battled the militants inside the city for five days, as the USA carried out airstrikes and sent advisers to help the Afghan ground forces.

He said his forces had not kidnapped the passengers but had taken them to a safe place near the highway to question them and will free them after the investigations are finished.

Mr. Ghani said government forces would observe a truce in fighting with the Taliban to coincide with the start on Monday of the three-day Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha and continue it through the commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday on November 19 if the insurgents reciprocated.

"The United States and our worldwide partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate".

A senior official in Ghani's office said the "conditional" ceasefire would run for three months.

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

Though it didn't directly mention Mr. Ghani's cease-fire offer, the Taliban responded immediately by saying it would release hundreds of soldiers, police and other government employees from its jails to mark Eid al-Adha.

"The United States and our worldwide partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate".

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.

Earlier this month, Taliban fighters overran an Afghan National Army base elsewhere in Faryab Province. He reiterated the group's standing position that the country's 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops in 2014. In a message released on the occasion of Eid al-Adha - and without pointing to any cease-fire - the Taliban leader said on Saturday that the insurgents remain committed to "Islamic goals", the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.

Akhundzada, thought to be hiding in neighboring Pakistan, had previously said the militants would not negotiate with the Afghan government, which he labelled a "puppet".

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