Taliban roaming Afghan cities at will, raising fears amid Eid euphoria

Taliban roaming Afghan cities at will, raising fears amid Eid euphoria

Carrying assault weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, members of Afghanistan's biggest militant group travelled by auto and motorbike through the contested district of Bati Kot in eastern Nangarhar province, waving Afghan and Taliban flags.

A spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar confirmed a auto bomb was responsible for Saturday's attack in the town of Ghazi Aminullah Khan.

He also asked the Taliban to extend their three-day ceasefire, which is due to end on Sunday, and begin peace talks.

Taliban fighters headed into cities across Afghanistan over the weekend as they celebrated their Eid cessation of hostilities with feasts, hugs and selfies, raising questions about what happens when their ceasefire ends at midnight (1930 GMT) on Sunday.

Dozens of Taliban members entered the Afghan capital on Saturday.

The deadly blast on June 16, which Islamic State (IS) militants claimed responsibility for, occurred around the time Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was announcing an extension of the cease-fire with the Taliban and urged the militant group to extend its cease-fire as well.

"They are unarmed as they handed over their weapons at the entrances", Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai told Reuters, adding that the weapons would be returned when the fighters leave the city.

Sworn enemies were seen embracing and taking selfies to mark a three-day Eid ceasefire.

Governors and senior government officials hosted small feasts, played music to welcome the militants' ceasefire, coinciding with the close of the month-long Ramadan fasting season.

It is the Taliban's first ceasefire since the government they ran was toppled by the 2001 US-led invasion.

The Taliban had agreed to a truce but only for the first three days of Eid, which started Friday, promising not to attack Afghan soldiers or police.

The Associated Press spoke to Abdullah Faizani, a Taliban fighter from Logar's Baraki district, who said it has been seven years since he has been to the provincial capital.

"We're ready for comprehensive negotiations on all those issues and demands that have been put-forth, we are ready to discuss them at the peace talks".

Nangarhar is a province in eastern Afghanistan.

"There is no doubt that there would be more developments in peace talks with the Taliban, Karmi Khalili, HPC chief said, adding that Taliban always emphasized the need for an Afghan owned peace process".

"As President Ghani emphasised in his statement to the Afghan people, peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of worldwide actors and forces", Pompeo said. He said he and 32 friends were in the capital on their motorcycles, many of them festooned with the Afghan flag.

The Taliban, wearing traditional headgear and many with sunglasses, entered Kabul through gates in the south and southeast.

The Taliban said they were not behind the attack, BBC News reported.

"I'm 40 years old and this is the best Eid I've had in my entire life", one Kandahar resident said on a BBC radio phone-in. But they have refused to meet with the USA -backed government, saying they will only negotiate with the United States directly.

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