Afghan Taliban raise hopes with surprise Eid ceasefire


The Taliban have announced a ceasefire in Afghanistan over the Eid al-Fitr holiday for the first time since 2001.

The militant group agreed to the truce two days after it was announced by President Ashraf Ghani.

In his video message, Ghani said all Afghan security forces would be instructed to stop offensive operations "only on Afghan insurgents", with ISIS, al Qaeda and other global terrorist networks excluded from the ceasefire.

On Friday, senior USA officials said they will intensify combat against the Islamic State affiliate in the country during the Kabul government's temporary halt to attacks on the Taliban.

Operations would continue against the thousands of foreign troops in the country, and the militants would defend themselves if attacked, a communique said.

At least 50 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in clashes across the country - 17 soldiers died in the Zawal district of western Herat province, nine border police were killed in the Bala Murghab district of north-western Badghis province, and at least 20 Afghan police were killed in the Qala e Zal district of northern Kunduz province on Friday.

Despite the Taliban's recent efforts to join peace talks with the Afghan government, the Arab country has seen an uptick in violence.

"Should the Taliban take full advantage of the ceasefire in the best interests of the Afghan people, then numerous surveillance assets we have overhead could be re-oriented to ISIS, AQ and other foreign terrorists", he told reporters at the meeting in Brussels.

Afghan Taliban announces Eid ceasefire for first time
Taliban announce cease-fire over Eid holiday for 1st time

But analysts were cautious, warning that the Taliban and its brutal arm the Haqqani Network could launch attacks on behalf of the Daesh group, which they are believed to have done previously.

In its statement, the Afghan Taliban said it would allow prisoners to visit with families and asked for the group's regional leaders to commute some prisoners' sentences.

We are in the middle of a new offensive against ISIS in Nangarhar, says General John Nicholson.

The US state department said its forces and coalition partners in Afghanistan would "honour the ceasefire".

There was no immediate response to the Taliban's statement from the US military, which has a dual mission to support Afghan troops against the Taliban and, separately, conduct counterterrorism operations against extremists associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Farhad said one soldier was wounded.

In February, Ghani offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war.

Farhad said at least 13 others were wounded in the attack.

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