Kabul: The Afghan Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a first for the group, following an earlier ceasefire announcement by the government.
A statement, released Saturday by the Taliban, said that they would defend themselves in case of any attack. They say foreign forces are excluded and Taliban operations would continue against them.
The statement added that the leadership of the Taliban may also consider releasing prisoners of war, if they promise not to return to the battlefield.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced a weeklong ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the holiday.
A statement sent from the president’s office on Thursday said the government’s cease-fire will begin on 27 Ramadan, or June 12, and last through the Eid al-Fitr holiday, around June 19, adding the cease-fire does not include al-Qaida or the Islamic State group.
The palace statement referred to a gathering of Afghanistan’s top clerics last week in which they issued a decree against suicide attacks and called for peace talks. A suicide bomber struck just outside the gathering as it was dispersing, killing at least seven people and wounding 20 in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
The Taliban had denounced the gathering, insisting that its jihad, or holy war, against foreign invaders was justified. It instead urged the clerics to side with it against the “occupation.”
Just hours before the Taliban’s Saturday announcement, at least 17 soldiers were killed when their checkpoint came under attack by Taliban insurgents in western Herat province, according to a spokesman for the provincial governor.
The spokesman, Gelani Farhad, said one soldier was wounded and that, eight insurgents were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded during the gun battle.