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Afghan Peace Marchers Arrive in Kabul

Afghan Peace Marchers Arrive in KabulAfghan Peace Marchers Arrive in Kabul

Hundreds of Afghan peace marchers arrived in the capital Kabul on Monday after spending the fasting month of Ramadan crossing the sun-baked, war-torn country, much of it under Taliban control.

The marchers, all men, including teachers, students and war victims on crutches and one in a wheelchair, were welcomed along the way by village women carrying the holy Qur’an, men singing and dancing or offering bread and yoghurt, some in tears, Reuters reported.

“I saw and learnt things that I had never thought of before,” said Iqbal Khayber, 27, a medical student from Helmand.

“We met people in areas controlled by the Taliban and in areas under government control—everyone is really tired of war.”

The march was triggered by a car bomb in Helmand on March 23 that killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens. No group claimed responsibility.

Khayber said the marchers, varying in number from day to day, would take main roads and sometimes turn into villages, choosing dangerous areas on purpose to try to confront people’s fear.

Before Ramadan, the marchers were walking 30 to 35 km a day, but during the fasting month, when they could not take food or water during daylight hours, they slowed to 20 to 25 km per day.

In one area of Ghazni province, they were told by the Taliban not to enter an area because it was too dangerous.

“We met Taliban fighters and after an introduction, they told us we shouldn’t have come here because the area is planted with bombs and they had planned an attack… After minutes of discussion with them, they seemed tired of it all, and the war. They directed us back to the safest area.”

Both the government and the militants declared temporary ceasefires for the end-of-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr holiday, leading to hugs and selfies between the two sides as militants emerged from their hideouts to enter towns and cities.

The Taliban ceasefire ended on Sunday. The government extended its ceasefire with the Taliban, which had been due to end on Wednesday, June 20, by 10 days.

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