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Afghan Forces Free 149 Hostages From Taliban

Afghan Forces Free 149 Hostages From TalibanAfghan Forces Free 149 Hostages From Taliban

Afghan forces launched a lightning operation in northern Kunduz province on Monday, rescuing 149 people, including women and children, abducted by the Taliban just hours earlier, officials said.

By mid-afternoon, fighting was still underway in the area to free 21 remaining hostages, officials added, AP reported.

The operation was a boost for Afghan forces, which have struggled to contain a resurgent Taliban on battlefields across the country.

On Monday morning, the Taliban ambushed a convoy of three buses traveling on a road in the Khan Abad district, and forced everyone to come with them, according to Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Rahimi said after Afghan security forces freed 149, the insurgents were still holding 21 hostages from the buses. He added at least seven Taliban fighters have been killed in the fighting so far.

  Ceasefire Offer

The ambush came despite Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha this week.

The Taliban have stepped up their assaults in recent months, seizing entire districts across Afghanistan and regularly carrying out large-scale bombings and attacks that have killed scores of people.

Ghani’s call for the truce, made during celebrations Sunday of the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence, said “the ceasefire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban’s stand.”

On Saturday, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah, said there will be no peace in the country as long as the “foreign occupation” continues. He reiterated the group’s standing position that the country’s 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.

In a message released on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, and without mentioning any ceasefire, Akhunzadah said the insurgents remain committed to their goals, the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.

For his part, Ghani said he hoped extensions could also be agreed upon to make the ceasefire last until Nov. 20, which will mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The government had previously announced a ceasefire with the Taliban during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June. The Taliban accepted that three-day truce but later rejected a call by the president to extend it.

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