Taliban say ceasefire will not be extended, fighting to resume

Malala Yousafzai was named youngest ever UN Ambassador of Peace
Malala Yousafzai was named youngest ever UN Ambassador of Peace
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20 June, 2018

Afghanistan's High Peace Council will hold a news conference on Sunday amid an unprecedented Taliban ceasefire and a day after President Ashraf Ghani said he would extend a government ceasefire but set no timeframe.

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistani caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk has described the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah in a USA drone strike in Afghanistan as a "significant development in the fight against terrorism".

Also on Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made a decision to extend the ceasefire, which was expected to end on Tuesday, for an unknown period of time.

News of the bombing came just as President Ashraf Ghani, in a televised address, offered to extend his government's eight-day unilateral cease-fire, which is set to end Tuesday.

In Afghanistan's eastern Logar provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam dozens of unarmed Taliban celebrated the Eid holiday, several greeting Afghan security forces, provincial police chief spokesman Shahpur Ahmadzai said Saturday in a telephone interview.

Islamic State claimed responsibility.

At least 10 people were killed in a separate blast outside the provincial governor's office in Jalalabad on Sunday, which again targeted those gathering to mark the temporary truce.

The Taliban's statement added that their cease-fire for their fighters to celebrate the holiday peacefully and not in response to the government's cease-fire announcement.

The Express Tribune, citing sources, also said the drone strike that took place in the Nur Gul Kalay village of Dangam district in eastern Kunar province killed Fazlullah and four other TTP commanders.

On the first two days of Eid, Taliban fighters, Afghan security forces and civilians hugged and took selfies with each other across the country, in an outpouring of emotion over the ceasefire.

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Ghani's extension of the ceasefire drew immediate global support and calls for the Taliban to reciprocate.

The group has killed hundreds of people in multiple attacks across the country since it first emerged in the region in 2014. Observers say it is unlikely that the militant group will engage in any negotiations, as they now have the upper hand on the battleground. "We also request the Afghan Taliban extend their cease-fire".

As Eid al-Fitr ends, so will the Taliban's truce Sunday night.

Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak met Taliban fighters in Kabul, Tolo news said, an nearly unthinkable prospect just two weeks ago.

"Ghani has full blessings of the US administration and it is crucial for the US officials to prove that (US President Donald) Trump's policies are working and talks with the Afghan Taliban are imminent", said a senior diplomat who met Afghan officials on Sunday to monitor the chance of back-channel talks with Taliban leaders. "The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in these discussions", it said.

The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan, with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Resolute Support said it was hopeful that the Taliban stick to their ceasefire "and we hope that pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation".

People gather at the site of an attack in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, June 17, 2018.

Earlier this week Taliban leader Akhundzada said he wanted direct talks with the United States before engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government.


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