Suicide bomber kills at least 19 as Afghans celebrate ‘ceasefire’

Thousands of Taliban fighters welcomed into cities during three--day truce

People celebrating the  ceasefire  in the Rodat district of Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.  Photograph: Reuters

People celebrating the ceasefire in the Rodat district of Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. Photograph: Reuters

 

A suicide bomber struck in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad yesterday, killing at least 19 people. It was the second attack in as many days targeting

Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians celebrating a holiday ceasefire.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said another 60 people were wounded in the attack, which struck a crowd of people as they left the governor’s compound.

Saturday’s attack, which also took place in Jalalabad, killed at least 36 people and wounded 65, according to Najibullah Kamawal, director of the provincial health department.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they appear to be the work of the Islamic State group, which is not included in the ceasefire and has clashed with the

Taliban in the past. The local IS affiliate has a strong presence in the province. The bomber on Saturday targeted a gathering of Taliban fighters who were celebrating a three-day truce coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Extension

Ashraf Ghani

There was no immediate word from the Taliban on whether they would observe the extension.

The three-day holiday and the ceasefire ended yesterday.

However, the office of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani yesterday extended a unilateral ceasefire with Taliban militants, which due to end on Wednesday June 20th, by 10 days.

“Afghan security forces can defend themselves against any attack,” Durani Waziri, spokeswoman for the presidential palace, told Reuters.

The chairman of the high peace council, a government body charged with negotiating an end to the nearly 17-year war, called on the Taliban to accept the extended ceasefire and join the peace process.

“We hope that the extension of the ceasefire will be announced by the leadership of the Taliban,” Mohammad Karim Khalili told a press conference in the capital, Kabul. He said there had been an “exchange of views” between the government and the Taliban over the past week, without elaborating.

The Taliban have steadily expanded their presence in recent years, seizing a number of districts across the country and carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces. But over the past two days Taliban fighters could be seen celebrating the truce alongside Afghan troops and other people in a number of locations. – AP/Reuters