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Afghan Taliban ceasefire begins to mark Eid

AFGHAN government forces and the Taliban began a 72-hour ceasefire yesterday for the religious festival of Eid al-Adha, which was also marked by the release of 500 militant prisoners. 

The truce, proposed by the Taliban, could pave the way for long-delayed peace talks between the two sides. 

President Ashraf Ghani said that the government had fulfilled a pledge by releasing the prisoners, but those set free are not on a list of insurgents whose liberation was requested by the Taliban under an agreement with the United States. 

The Afghan government has already released 4,600 of the 5,000 militants sought by the Taliban, but Mr Ghani said that the remainder would not be freed as they had been convicted of crimes that he has no authority to pardon.

For its part, the Taliban has released a total of 1,005 government officials under the agreement. 

Peace talks were initially scheduled for March but were pushed back due to political infighting in Kabul and delays in releasing prisoners. 

Negotiations are now expected to begin after Eid. 

The ceasefire came just hours before a suicide bombing in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province. At least 17 people were killed near the governor’s office, where many people were shopping ahead of the festival.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack and Isis had not commented when the Star went to press. 

Meanwhile, Afghan officials said that Pakistan had fired a barrage of rockets across the two countries’ border during an exchange of fire, killing nine people and wounding 50.

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