Afghan Government accuses Taliban of holding women and children hostage

The Afghan Taliban ambushed a convoy of buses on Monday on a road in northern Afghanistan and took more than 100 people hostage, including women and children, in the latest assault, provincial authorities said.

The ambush came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s announced a conditional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban.
The fate of the abducted in Kunduz province in an area that has recently fallen under Taliban control was not immediately known and there was no statement from the militants. The Taliban have resurged in recent years, seizing entire districts across Afghanistan and regularly carrying out large-scale bombings and attacks.
According to Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council in Kunduz, the insurgents stopped three busses on the road near Khan Abad district and forced the passengers to come with them.
Ayubi said he believes the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces who usually go home for the holidays.
Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief in neighboring Takhar province, said the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and were traveling to the capital, Kabul.
“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,” Ayubi added.
In his call on Sunday for the truce, Ghani said “the cease-fire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban’s stand”.
Ghani made the announcement during celebrations of the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence, just a day after the leader of the Afghan Taliban said that there will be no peace in the country as long as the “foreign occupation” continues.
The militant leader, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah, reiterated the group’s position that the country’s 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.
In a message released on the occasion of Eidul Azha and without pointing to any ceasefire the Taliban leader said on Saturday that the militants remain committed to “Islamic goals,” the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.
For his part, Ghani said he hoped extensions could also be agreed upon to make the ceasefire last until Nov 20, which will mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The government had previously announced a cease-fire with the Taliban during the Eidul Fitr holiday in June. The Taliban accepted that three-day ceasefire, but later rejected a call by the president to extend it.
Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the eastern city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Kabul and the capital of a province with the same name.
Afghan security forces battled the militants inside the city for five days, as the US carried out airstrikes and sent advisers to help the Afghan ground forces.
The battle for Ghazni killed at least 100 members of Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials. The heavy casualties underscore the challenges the government in Kabul faces since the US and NATO officially ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.


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