Kabul (AP) – In Afghanistan, the militant Islamist Taliban have announced a three-day ceasefire for the upcoming holidays at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
According to a Taliban statement released on Sunday evening (local time), all fighters are ordered to cease offensive operations across the country from the first to the third day of the Sugar Festival. The holidays, also known as Eid al-Fitr, start on Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on the moon sighting.
A response from the presidential palace in Kabul said on Monday that President Ashraf Ghani had instructed the security forces to respect the ceasefire. Ghani called on the Taliban to hold a permanent ceasefire and return to the negotiating table. Peace talks that have been going on since September have stalled. The Islamists do not want to participate in initiatives to speed up the peace process until all American and NATO troops have left the country.
Given the tense security situation and the numerous civilians and security forces killed in recent days, the announcement was not only a source of joy. How to celebrate a ceasefire while thousands of families are in mourning, former Mining Minister Nargis Nehan asked on Twitter.
Former Deputy Minister of Commerce Mukadessa Legal wrote that the Taliban should know “that with a three-day ceasefire they are doing us no service if our souls and hearts are on fire.”
With the start of the official withdrawal of US and NATO forces on May 1, the Taliban launched offensives in several provinces. Observers feared a deterioration in the security situation around this date and beyond. Some assumed that the Taliban would test the new conditions on the battlefield, with less and less support from international forces for the security forces.
Some of the recent Taliban offensives have been successful, others have been able to repel security forces. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 50 people were killed in an attack on Saturday in a predominantly Shia Hasara neighborhood near a school, mostly schoolgirls.
Vice President Sarwar Danisch’s office said on Monday without further information that the death toll was as high as 85. Family members still missed their children on Monday. Until now, no one has confessed the deed. The Taliban denied any involvement.
The German government condemned the attack. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert spoke on Monday about an attack that “could not have been more vicious and nastier”. The real goal is an Afghan society “in which girls and women should be provided with educational opportunities that the terrorists and their constituencies want to deny them”.
On Monday evening, at least 13 civilians were killed in two other incidents when buses hit roadside bombs. Several security forces in the country were also killed. About ten days ago, at least 24 people were killed in a car bomb in Logar province, most of them students. President Ghani declared Tuesday a national day of mourning for the victims of the bombings in Kabul and Logar.
The Taliban had already stopped firing at Eid-al Fitr in the past. The Sugar Festival is the second most important festival in Islam after the Feast of Sacrifice. The Taliban have always ignored calls to extend the ceasefire beyond the Eid holiday period.