Taliban orders fighters to observe three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan for Eid al Adha holiday, starting on Friday, as President Ghani says peace talks with insurgents could begin in seven days.

Taliban shake hands with people in Kabul during Eid al Fitr ceasefire on June 16, 2018.
Taliban shake hands with people in Kabul during Eid al Fitr ceasefire on June 16, 2018. (Reuters Archive)

Taliban has declared a three-day ceasefire during the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha starting on Friday, marking the second such truce in just over two months in Afghanistan.

The offer came soon after President Ashraf Ghani said peace talks with the Taliban could begin "in a week's time".

"All the mujahedeen (Taliban fighters) ... are ordered to refrain from carrying out any operation against the enemy during the three days and nights of Eid al Adha," Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

But any attack "by the enemy" would be met with force, he added.

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Kabul-Taliban peace talks

The Afghan president's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said the government welcomed the ceasefire announcement but added that Afghans wanted enduring peace and the start of direct peace negotiations.

In an address at the presidential palace, President Ghani earlier said a crucial prisoner swap with the Taliban is almost complete.

"To demonstrate the government's commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic will soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners," Ghani said, referring to the number of insurgent inmates the government originally pledged to free under the auspices of a US-Taliban deal signed in February.

"With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week's time," Ghani added.

He also urged the Taliban to agree on a "permanent and comprehensive ceasefire" during talks aimed at ending Afghanistan's nearly 19-year-old war.

"The ball now is in the court of the Taliban and the international community," Ghani said.

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Taliban keen to negotiate

Last week, the Taliban said it's ready to hold negotiations straight after Eid, provided the prisoner swap had been completed.

The insurgents declared a similar three-day ceasefire in May at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

That truce, which Afghan forces also observed, prompted widespread relief across Afghanistan.

But it was short-lived, with the insurgents resuming deadly attacks straight afterward.

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High casualties 

Since the US-Taliban agreement, 3,560 Afghan security forces personnel have been killed in attacks by Taliban, Ghani said in a speech on Tuesday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report on Monday that more than 1,280 Afghan civilians had been killed in the first six months of the year, mainly as a result of fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban.

The US State Department said last week that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad would travel to the region to push for an agreement on prisoner exchanges and a reduction in violence. 

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies