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Afghanistan begins temporary ceasefire to mark end of Ramadan

·2-min read

A three-day ceasefire agreed by the warring Taliban and Afghan forces was due to come into force on Thursday, after weeks of intense clashes throughout the country.

Proposed by the militants and agreed to by President Ashraf Ghani, the truce marks the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which comes at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Violence has intensified in the country since Washington missed a May 1 deadline, agreed with the Taliban last year, to withdraw all of its troops.

It will be only the fourth pause in fighting in nearly 20 years of conflict, and is expected to give respite to Afghan families as they celebrate Eid.

"I have not seen my relatives who live in Logar province for about a year. I will use this opportunity to go to the Taliban controlled areas and visit them," said Mustafa, a Kabul resident.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed and millions have been displaced by the conflict, which has seen a resurgent Taliban take hold of large swathes of the country.

The militants and the Afghan government launched peace talks in September last year, but progress has stalled despite international efforts to jump start the negotiations.

Ceasefires in the past have largely held, in what is widely thought to be an exercise by the Taliban leadership to prove they have firm control over the myriad factions across the country that make up the hardline movement.

“He (Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada) wants to show that he is the owner of the war and peace,” said Afghan political analyst Fawad Kochai, based in Kabul.

‘No plans to go anywhere’

Washington and NATO have pledged to withdraw their troops by September 11, leaving Afghan forces to defend themselves and protect the vulnerable population.

While the militants have avoided engaging American troops, they have stepped up attacks against Afghan government forces.

Violence has rocked several provinces in recent weeks, and on Tuesday the insurgents seized a district not far from the capital.

A series of blasts outside a girls school in the capital on Saturday killed more than 50 people, mostly teenage girls.

Officials blamed the Taliban who denied they were involved.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it would continue to support Afghanistan.

“Let me assure you that we have no plans to go anywhere. We intend to stay the course and work with all of you,” said head of UNAMA Deborah Lyons in a statement to mark Eid.

Top US envoy in Kabul, Ross Wilson, said after the school attack that it would not stop US efforts « to support and advocate education » of women in Afghanistan.

(AFP)

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