Taliban refuse to extend Afghanistan ceasefire, as suicide attack kills 18

Taliban kills eight election commission employees in Afghanistan

KABUL: The Taliban refused to extend their ceasefire beyond Sunday night, dampening hopes for peace after jubilant scenes over the Eid holidays in Afghanistan.
The announcement came after a suicide attack in the restive eastern part of the country on Sunday killed at least 18 people in a crowd celebrating the Muslim holiday, the second assault in as many days to mar the unprecedented ceasefire.
Kabul extended its ceasefire with the Taliban by 10 days but said security forces would defend themselves if attacked, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani tweeted.
The Afghan leader also requested the militant group halt hostilities but the Taliban said fighting would resume.
“The ceasefire ends tonight and our operations will begin, inshallah (God willing). We have no intention to extend the ceasefire,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, told AFP in a WhatsApp message.
He made no reference to Ghani’s announcement.
The announcement has raised concern among some Afghans over the number of Taliban who have taken advantage of the ceasefire to enter cities around the country, including the capital Kabul, and may still be there when the truce ends.
The Islamic State group, which was not part of the truce, claimed it had carried out its second suicide attack in two days in the province of Nangarhar.
Provincial health director Najibullah Kamawal put the toll from Sunday’s blast in Jalalabad city, outside the office of the Nangarhar provincial governor, at 18 dead and 49 wounded.
“Some of the wounded are in a serious condition,” Kamawal added, suggesting the death toll could rise.
The governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, put the death toll slightly higher at 19.
He said a bomber on foot blew himself up among a crowd of Taliban fighters, local elders and civilians leaving the governor’s compound after attending a special event for Eid.
On Saturday, a suicide assault on a gathering of Taliban, security forces and civilians in the province killed at least 36 people and wounded 65, Kamawal told AFP.
The Islamic State’s Afghanistan franchise, which is particularly active in the east, claimed responsibility for that attack.
The group has killed hundreds of people in multiple attacks across the country since it first emerged in the region in 2014. It has also fought the Taliban in some areas. – APP

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