Afghan leader declares Eid truce with Taliban


Taliban insurgents are holding more than 20 bus passengers in Afghanistan's northern province of Kunduz, provincial spokesman Ismatullah Muradi told CNN.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban in a televised broadcast Sunday, a move welcomed by Washington but yet to receive a reply from the militants themselves.

"It is our hope, and that of the worldwide community, that the Afghan people may celebrate Eid al-Adha this year in peace, free from fear", he added, referring to the Islamic holiday that starts next week.

The buses were stopped in the province's Khan Abad district, an area under Taliban control - prompting a battle against government forces deployed in a rescue operation.

He added: "So far, there is no news on the fate of the passengers, but tribal elders and local officials are trying to negotiate with the Taliban".

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Ghani's ceasefire announcement was limited to the Taliban and excluded other militant groups such as Islamic State.

"We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long-lasting and real peace", he said.

The Taliban have resurged in recent years, seizing districts across the country and regularly carrying out large-scale attacks.

In a statement on August 18, Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada repeated his call for direct talks with the United States to end what he said was the foreign "occupation" of Afghanistan.

In a message released on the occasion of Eid al-Adha - and without pointing to any ceasefire - the Taliban leader said on Saturday that the insurgents remain committed to "Islamic goals", the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.

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That was a relief. "We'll continue to think of him and pray for him, his family, his fiancée, all that they have to deal with". He also closed to within just 29 points of New Zealand's Scott Dixon , who leads the championship points race with 530 points.

Security forces personnel on the buses will be kept in custody, the spokesperson added.

The Taliban accepted the three-day truce but rejected calls by Ghani to extend it.

Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the eastern city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kabul and the capital of a province with the same name.

KABUL-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday proposed a conditional three-month cease-fire in the government's US -backed war against the Taliban, seeking to regain political momentum following a string of devastating battlefield losses to security forces at the hands of the insurgents.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops in 2014.

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