Afghans flock to mosques for Eid prayers as ceasefire begins

Elias Hubbard
August 1, 2020

The explosion came on the eve of a ceasefire declared by the Taliban during the festival of Eid.

Disagreements over a prisoner exchange and the unrest have delayed peace talks between an Afghan government-mandated committee and the Taliban, as envisaged in an agreement signed between the USA and the militant group in Doha in February.

"The Islamic Emirate due to compassion of the Amirul-Momineen and as a goodwill gesture, will release the remaining prisoners of the Kabul Administration before Eid al-Adha, thus completing the release of 1000 prisoners", Tweeted Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman based in Doha.

The Afghan government has so far released around 4,400 prisoners.

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. "These 500 Taliban will be not from the list that they have given us before".

"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.

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who led negotiations with the Taliban, is now visiting regional players including Ghani in Kabul to push for a ceasefire extension. In the latest report, SIGAR quotes the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), an organization formed in 2018 to assist the reform of the Afghan security forces. But that date passed amid political disarray in Kabul and disagreements over the prisoner exchange, with Afghan authorities saying some of the released Taliban inmates were returning to the battlefield.

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

Since signing the February deal, the Taliban have largely refrained from attacking cities and have not hit United States troops.

The UNAMA has blamed the Taliban for nearly half of civilian casualties during the first half of 2020, with less than one-quarter blamed on Afghan forces.

Many Afghans are leery about what comes next.

In the same vein, Afghanistan's National Security Council (NSC) pointed to an increase in Taliban attacks specifically between June 14 and 21 - "422 attacks in 32 provinces killing 291 ANDSF personnel and wounding 550 others, making it the 'deadliest [week] of the past 19 years'".

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.

"The Taliban can't be trusted because they announce ceasefire for Eid and after Eid they step up attacks", said Kandahar resident Anwaruddin, 40.

Thursday's vehicle bomb exploded as crowds shopped ahead of Eid in the city of Puli Alam in Logar province.

He went on to say, "It is now up to the other parties to determine how they utilize this opportunity".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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