Taliban members take selfies, hug Afghan soldiers during unprecedented Eid ceasefire

In this file image made from video broadcast on Thursday Nov. 7 2013 undated footage of Mullah Fazlullah is shown on a projector in Pakistan

A suicide attack in restive eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed at least 18 people in a crowd celebrating the Eid holiday, the second assault in as many days to mar an unprecedented ceasefire.

The explosion occurred in a district where dozens of civilians, members of the Taliban and government security forces were celebrating the cease-fire and the Islamic festival of Eid, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak met Taliban fighters in Kabul, Tolo news said, an unthinkable prospect just two weeks ago.

Washington has until now said any negotiations were exclusively for the Afghan government, but the Taliban has said it will not deal with what it calls a puppet regime.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a nine-day extension of the cease-fire after a suicide bombing killed 36 people on Saturday, in hopes that the Taliban would respond in kind.

"The ceasefire ends tonight and our operations will begin, God willing".

The Taliban spokesman rejected rumors that the insurgents would extend their cease-fire late Saturday and on Sunday the Associated Press reported that a Taliban spokesman declared the cease-fire over.

"If they extend the ceasefire they will be compelled to talk, which I think the Taliban isn't interested in".


"The Government's extension of the ceasefire provides a clear opportunity for initiating a negotiated solution to the conflict", said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.

"We don't have mechanisms in place to mitigate the breach of ceasefire by the Taliban", Saleh told Reuters. This is the first time that the Taliban has ever extended an offer of this kind to the Afghan government.

In some districts of the eastern city of Jalalabad, civilians were offering dry fruit, traditional candies and ice cream to Taliban militants.

A senior Western diplomat in Kabul earlier said Ghani's decision was "a bold move" but questioned what happens if the Taliban do not extend their halt in hostilities against government forces. Several local Taliban leaders said they supported an extended truce, although there are still sharp divisions among its national leadership that could split on conditions for peace talks or on a future political role for insurgents.

No surprisesGhani's extension of the government's eight-day ceasefire, which had been due to expire Tuesday night, drew immediate global support and calls for the Taliban to follow suit.

Governors in Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul said both sides had adhered to the ceasefire and that there had been no reports of violence for 24 hours.

The United States wants Pakistan, which it accuses of harboring Afghan Taliban commanders, to exert more influence on the group to bring it to the negotiating table. It is hard to describe the joy, ' said student Qais Liwal.

'I'm so happy for the cease fire in Afghanistan, and I am hoping peace forever'. "Look, everyone you see here, we are all Muslims and mujahideen", the man said, referring to Afghans who fought against Soviet forces in the 1980s.

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