Mon, 15 Oct 2018

On eve of government truce with Taliban, ISIS bombs Kabul

By Sheetal Sukhija, Turkmenistan News
12 Jun 2018, 07:10 GMT+10

KABUL, Afghanistan - A day before Afghanistan government’s recently agreed ceasefire with Taliban insurgent is said to be implemented, a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS rattled Kabul.

On Monday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance of a government building in the west of Kabul, killing 13 people.

After the bombing, Fraidoon Azhand, a spokesman for the ministry that came under attack, the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Ministry said, “We don’t know whether all of the victims are employees of the ministry or other civilians as well. The ministry has a kindergarten where the employees bring their children. Casualties among those children are possible but for the moment we don’t know exactly.”

Afghanistan’s interior ministry spokesman, Najib Danish, later confirmed that the suicide bomber blew himself at the entrance of the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Ministry in Kabul.

He added in a statement, "Woman, children and employees of the (rehabilitation) ministry are among the victims.”

The Afghanistan Health Ministry said that 13 employees of the Ministry of Rural Development were killed in the bombing and 30 others were injured.

According to the Kabul Police, the bomber struck during rush hour, as workers were leaving the government building early for Ramadan and were waiting for a bus to head home.

Hours later, the local branch of the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack via its AMAQ news agency, but the group did not provide any evidence.

The ISIS attack in Kabul came after reports of more violence across the country.

Earlier on Monday, Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar province said that four unknown assailants, including one suicide bomber, tried to storm a provincial education department building in Jalalabad.

He added that at least ten civilians were wounded in the attack which was foiled by security forces and that three of the attackers were shot dead.

Further, six civilians were reported killed when a roadside bomb struck a minibus in Ghazni province. 

In yet another attack in the same province earlier in the day, up to 10 Taliban fighters and three policemen were reportedly killed in clashes with security forces.

On Sunday night, over a dozen Afghan security forces were killed in Taliban attacks in northern Kunduz province.

The string of attacks on Monday came a day before the government is due to begin a week-long ceasefire with Taliban insurgents.

Amid an increasing spate of attacks in the country - especially a recent deadly ISIS attack that targeted the country’s top Islamic clerics gathered for a meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council, killing 14 - the government offered truce terms to the largest insurgent group in the country, Taliban.

As a peace overture during the holy month of Ramadan, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani announced his government’s first unconditional ceasefire with Taliban insurgents until June 20, when the Muslim fasting season comes to an end. 

Officials in Washington added that U.S. forces and coalition partners in Afghanistan would “honour the ceasefire.”

While Ghani said the government was hoping for a peaceful resolution to the country’s 17-year-long battle, he clarified that the truce applies only to Taliban and does not cover the Islamic State or other foreign militants in Afghanistan.

The President stressed that Afghan security forces "will only stop offensive manoeuvres against Afghan armed Taliban and will continue to target Daesh (ISIS) and other foreign-backed terrorist organisations and their affiliates.”

Then, after spending days weighing the government's ceasefire proposal, Taliban ordered its first-ever ceasefire after being at war for 17 years.

Soon after, Taliban ordered its local commanders to observe a three-day break in operations against Afghan forces for next week's Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Taliban even said that it would free captives they were sure would not rejoin Government forces but clarified that it would defend itself if attacked. 

Taliban truce is expected to begin on Friday and the group has said that while it would halt attacks on government forces for three days, it would continue its operations against foreign troops.

The surprise truce came as the most promising development towards peace since the current conflict started in 2001.

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