Suicide blast kills 26 celebrating Afghanistan ceasefire

Afghans taking a selfie with a Taleban militant in Kunduz on Friday as the militants announced a three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday in various parts of Afghanistan.
Afghans taking a selfie with a Taleban militant in Kunduz on Friday as the militants announced a three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday in various parts of Afghanistan.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KABUL • A car bomb killed at least 26 people at a gathering of Taleban and Afghan armed forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar yesterday, an official said, as soldiers and militants elsewhere in Afghanistan celebrated an unprecedented ceasefire.

"A suicide bomber detonated among people, security forces and Taleban who were celebrating the ceasefire," the provincial governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the blast that also wounded at least 16 others marking the suspension of fighting in Rodat district of Nangarhar province.

The group's Amaq news agency said the attack targeted "a gathering of Afghan forces" in Nangarhar.

Dozens of unarmed Taleban militants had earlier entered the Afghan capital of Kabul and other cities to celebrate, coinciding with the end of the Ramadan.

Soldiers and militants exchanged hugs and took selfies. But in some provinces, the insurgents were carrying rocket launchers, grenades and other ammunition.

The Taleban had announced a surprise three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday, which began last Friday, except against foreign forces.

It overlaps with an Afghan government ceasefire which lasts until Wednesday.

President Ashraf Ghani said in an address to the nation that he would extend the ceasefire with the Taleban, but did not give a timeframe.

He also asked the Taleban to extend their three-day ceasefire, which is due to end today.

It was not clear if Mr Ghani knew about the bomb in the east when he made his address.

Afghans shared photos on social media purportedly showing Taleban fighters around the country gathering with security forces and locals for the holiday. Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak met Taleban fighters in Kabul, Tolo news said, an almost unthinkable prospect just two weeks ago.

The bizarre images served as powerful propaganda for both sides and have fanned hopes for the ceasefire to continue.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'Suicide blast kills 26 celebrating Afghanistan ceasefire'. Print Edition | Subscribe