Afghan Taliban announces Eid ceasefire for first time

Afghan Taliban announces Eid ceasefire for first time”

A member of security personnel stands guard in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"(Operations against ISIS) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire", U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of United States and worldwide forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.

The Taliban in Afghanistan has for the first time announced a three-day ceasefire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of this week, following a ceasefire announced by the government.

A Taliban statement released early on Saturday said its commanders had also been told to free captives they were sure would not rejoin Government forces.

"Our operations will continue against them, we will attack them wherever we see them", it said.

The insurgents did not officially respond, but announced the launch of their annual spring offensive in an apparent rejection of the plan, one of the most comprehensive ever offered by the Afghan government.

"Hope the pleasure of shedding no Afghan blood in Eid becomes so overwhelming that rest of year is also declared as Afghan Eid", he said on Twitter.

It's the first time the group has agreed to a ceasefire at Eid since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Hours before Saturday's announcement, Taliban militants stormed an Afghan military base in the western province of Herat, killing at least 17 soldiers, officials said.

Eid is the biggest festival in the Muslim calendar when families visit each other's homes, enjoy feasting and in Afghanistan tend graves of fallen loved ones.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during during a peace and security cooperation conference in Kabul, Afghanistan February 28, 2018.

The Taliban's favorable response comes after President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced a ceasefire with the Taliban.

The palace statement referred to a gathering of Afghanistan's top clerics last week in which they issued a decree against suicide attacks and called for peace talks.

The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban and Ghani endorsed the recommendation.

On Thursday Ghani said in a video message that he was calling for a ceasefire with the Taliban after religious scholars on Monday issued a fatwa against the ongoing war in the country.

Even such a brief cessation of hostilities would bring welcome relief to civilians in the war-torn country, almost 17 years after the Taliban regime was toppled.

Foreign troop levels in the country have dropped to around 15,000, although US President Donald Trump past year announced more air strikes in the country and wiped troop withdrawal deadlines.

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