At least 25 people were killed in an explosion in eastern Nangarhar province on Saturday that crushed the spirit of goodwill and hope for peace in the country that was observing the second day of cease-fire between the government and the Taliban.
Nangarhar governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told Anadolu Agency the blast had targeted a meeting of the Afghan Taliban and local government officials in connection with the Eid cease-fire in Rodaat district.
Among the dead were Taliban fighters, security officials and civilians, Khogyani said. He added the gathering had been called to celebrate and consolidate the cease-fire. More than 50 people were also wounded, many in critical condition in the attack, the spokesman added.
Daesh terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement posted on its propaganda website, the terror group said the suicide attack targeted Afghan security officials and the Taliban.
Reports of the explosion came as a rude shock to Afghans who were hoping the cease-fire over Eid would pave the way for long-term peace and stability in the war-torn country.
Pictures of the Taliban and Afghan forces posing for selfies -- praying, smiling and walking together -- during Eid had gone viral on social media, giving hope to millions that the landmark temporary truce might lead to an end of the 17-year-old deadly conflict.
The Ministry of Defense even said before the Nangarhar blast that no cease-fire violations had taken place.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani hinted at an extension of the cease-fire despite the blast. Addressing the nation on the national broadcaster, Ghani said security forces have been ordered to extend the cease-fire.
“We also request the Afghan Taliban to extend their cease-fire. During the cease-fire, we will provide medical assistance to the wounded Taliban, and will provide them any humanitarian assistance if needed.
Taliban hoist flag
“Taliban prisoners will also be allowed to contact and see their families,” the president said.
The president added that the Afghan government remains ready for comprehensive negotiations with the Taliban as well as neighboring countries.
“All those issues and demands that have been put forth, we are ready to discuss them at the peace talks. The Afghan government is ready to discuss issues of mutual concern with neighboring countries, and presence of foreign forces.”
Saturday was the second day of cease-fire declared by the Taliban and the fifth day of the cease-fire announced by the government. The three-day truce by the armed rebels would come to an end Monday.
Locals in a number of provinces also confirmed to Anadolu Agency that the two warring sides had observed Eid in unprecedented harmony under the tri-colour Afghanistan flag as well as the white Taliban flag across Afghanistan.
In fact in capital Kabul, a group of unarmed Taliban rebels hoisted their white flag over a bridge in Mirwais Maidan area Saturday in the presence of police in an unparalleled civilized manner without any violent incident.
Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai told Anadolu Agency Taliban fighters had surrendered their arms before entering the city, and would be given back their arms once they leave the city in line with the truce.
National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar earlier said both warring sides desire peace and an end to the “imposed war by foreign countries" and their "mean spy agencies”.
On Friday night, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani spoke with Pakistan’s army chief and prime minister over the phone about the killing of a notorious Pakistani Taliban commander, Mulla Fazlullah and the Afghan peace process.
Fazlullah’s killing was hailed as a milestone in building trust between Kabul and Islamabad. Hailing from Pakistan’s Swat district, the Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader was believed to be operating from his hideouts in the forests of east Afghanistan since 2009.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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