Afghan Tal­iban raise hopes with sur­prise Eid cease­fire

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

KABUL, (Reuters) - The Afghan Tal­iban on Satur­day an­nounced a sur­prise three-day cease­fire over the Mus­lim Eid hol­i­day in the mid­dle of June, their first of­fer of its kind, days after the govern­ment de­clared an un­con­di­tional cease­fire of its own.

The mil­i­tants said for­eign forces would be ex­cluded from the cease­fire and that op­er­a­tions against them would con­tinue. They also said they would de­fend them­selves against any at­tack.

“Mem­bers of the Tal­iban should not par­tic­i­pate in pub­lic gath­er­ings dur­ing the Eid fes­tiv­i­ties be­cause the en­emy could tar­get us,” they said in a state­ment.

The pres­i­den­tial palace wel­comed the an­nounce­ment and said it hoped it can lead to last­ing peace. Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan’s Am­bas­sador to neigh­bour­ing Pak­istan, de­scribed the an­nounce­ment as an “im­por­tant step to­wards prospects for peace”.

“Hope the plea­sure of shed­ding no Afghan blood in Eid be­comes so over­whelm­ing that rest of year is also de­clared as Afghan Eid,” he said on Twit­ter.

The Tal­iban at­tacked se­cu­rity out­posts in the Zawul dis­trict of west­ern Herat prov­ince on Fri­day night, killing 17 troops and wound­ing sev­eral, Je­lani Farhad, spokesman for the provin­cial gover­nor, said.

It was not clear ex­actly when the cease­fire would be­gin, as Eid starts when the moon is first sighted, but Afghan cal­en­dars mark Fri­day June 15 as the end of Ra­madan.

Eid is the big­gest fes­ti­val in the Mus­lim calendar when fam­i­lies visit each other’s homes, en­joy feast­ing and in Afghanistan tend graves of fallen loved ones. The Tal­iban, seek­ing to reim­pose strict Is­lamic law after their 2001 ouster at the hands of U.S.-led troops, have launched at­tacks dur­ing Eid in the past.

“In three days, maybe the unity of Tal­iban in­sur­gents will be put to test,” a Euro­pean diplo­mat told Reuters. “If dif­fer­ent fac­tions don’t ac­cept the cease­fire, then at­tacks will con­tinue.”

Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani an­nounced an un­con­di­tional cease­fire with the Tal­iban on Thurs­day, un­til June 20, but ex­clud­ing other mil­i­tant groups, such as Is­lamic State.

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