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Taliban declares three-day Eid ceasefire as 11 killed in new bombing

AT least 11 people had been killed and dozens injured in the bombing of a bus in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province.

The blast took place late on Sunday night, said Zabul’s provincial governor’s spokesman Gul Islam Sial, adding that 25 people were injured including women and children who were in critical condition.

It came as the Taliban declared a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan to mark this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday, and after it was blamed for bombs on Saturday outside a school that killed more than 50 people, mostly young girls.

“Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are instructed to halt all offensive operations against the enemy countrywide from the first till the third day of Eid,” a statement released by the insurgents on Monday said.

“But if the enemy conducts any assault or attack against you during these days, stand ready to robustly protect and defend yourselves and your territory,” it added.

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Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and the holiday begins according to the sighting of the new moon.

News of the proposed ceasefire comes after the government blamed the Taliban for the attack outside a girls’ school in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb of the capital largely populated by the Shia Hazara community, which is often targeted by extremist Sunni Islamist militants.

The Taliban denied it was involved in the attack, the deadliest in the country in more than a year.

Saturday’s blasts came as the United States continued to pull out its last 2,500 troops from the country despite faltering peace efforts between the Taliban and Afghan government to end a decades-long war.

Dozens of girls killed in Saturday’s blasts that targeted a secondary school in west Kabul were buried on Sunday at a desolate hilltop cemetery in the capital.

A series of blasts outside the school during a peak holiday shopping period killed 58 people, mostly female students, and wounded more than 100 in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb populated mostly by Hazara Shias.

An interior ministry spokesperson told reporters a car bomb detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada girls’ school, and when the students rushed out in panic, two more devices exploded. Residents were shopping before this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday when the blasts occurred.

Mohammad Taqi, a resident of Dasht-e-Barchi, whose two daughters were students at the school but had escaped the attack, told AFP that after the attack: “I rushed to the scene and found myself in the middle of bodies. All of them were girls. Their bodies piled on top of each other.”

Another resident also described rushing to the school gate after he heard an explosion. “Countless girls were lying down on the street in blood, some were motionless and many more were screaming from injuries,” he said. “I did not know what to do, where to start.”

On Sunday, relatives buried the dead at a hilltop site known as Martyrs Cemetery, where victims of attacks against the Hazara community are laid to rest. Hazaras are Shia Muslims and considered heretics by extremist Sunnis. Sunni Muslims make up most of the Afghan population.

“We buried 37 bodies in one cemetery alone – all were female students, many wearing their black and white school uniform,” said Sharif Watandoost, a member of a volunteer group helping families bury victims. “Some had shrapnel wounds, some were burned, many had been torn apart.

The Taliban denied involvement, saying it hadn’t carried out an attack in the capital since February last year. But the group has clashed daily with Afghan forces in the rugged countryside even as the US military reduces its presence. The US was supposed to have pulled all forces out by 1 May as agreed with the Taliban, but Washington pushed back the date to 11 September – a move that angered the insurgents.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/10/taliban-declares-three-day-eid-ceasefire-after-afghanistan-school-bomb-attacks

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