A car bombing and mortar shells fired at a crowded market in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Monday, Juin 29, killed 23 people, including children, a statement from a provincial governor’s office said.
The attack could not be independently confirmed as the Taliban controlled area, is remote and inaccessible to reporters. At present both the Taliban and the Afghan military blamed each other for the killings of the civilians.
The statement from the office of the Helmand province governor, General Mohammad Yasin, did not provide further details and there was no claim of responsibility for the bombing.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, denied the insurgents were involved in the attack. The Taliban claimed the military fired mortars into the market while the military said that on contrary it was a car bomb and mortar shells fired by the insurgents targeted the civilians.
The army said there was no military activity in the area on Juin 29 and that two Taliban fighters were also killed when the car bomb detonated at the marketplace. Animals brought for sale – sheep and goats – were also killed.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the “brutal and inhumane act.”
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again calls on the Taliban to refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people, which is the end of the war and the start of negotiations,” Ghani’s statement said.
NATO has welcomed the announcement of a three-day cease-fire in Afghanistan during the Muslim celebration of the end of Ramadan – Eid al-Fitr.
“I welcome the statements by the government of Afghanistan & the Taliban on a 3-day ceasefire over Eid. All parties should seize this opportunity for peace, for the benefit of all Afghans,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on his Twitter micro blog on May 23.
“NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security,” he underlined.
In a message preceeding the celebrations, the insurgents made the surprise announcement amid escalating conflict and a fragile peace process, directing militants to stay out of areas under the government control, but adding government forces could visit Taliban-controlled areas.
In a similar holiday truce two years ago, there were unprecedented scenes of foes embracing each other and taking selfies.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the announcement, explaining that he instructed the military to comply.
“President Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi announced on Twitter.
“There are few words that can do justice to the horrors we have witnessed today in Afghanistan. At the same moment an attack was targeting a maternity ward in Kabul, a terrorist detonated his bomb in the middle of a funeral in Nangarhar. Dozens of innocent civilians were killed or injured in these most reprehensible acts of terror” reads the statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on two attacks targeting civilians in Kabul and Nangarhar.
“To target and kill mothers, newly born babies and nurses, as well as bereaved and mourning families, are acts of evil and show an appalling degree of inhumanity. The attack on the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital maternity ward, run by Médecins Sans Frontières, also seems to have targeted international aid workers. The European Union stands in solidarity with them. These acts constitute clear violations of International Humanitarian Law, for which the perpetrators will have to bear the consequences. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and we wish those who were injured a quick recovery.
“The Afghan people deserve peace. For too long has their country been ripped apart by terrorism and violence that no political objective can ever justify. A permanent ceasefire is absolutely vital, and the European Union calls on all stakeholders in Afghanistan and the region to make it a reality.”
“On Afghanistan, we have discussing the situation where the country is in a political and military stalemate. The peace process is not advancing fast enough, although there have been some positive signs such as the first exchange of prisoners between the Taliban and the Afghan Government” said in his opening remarks the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell at the press–conference in Brussels.
“For our part, together with international and local partners, including Afghan civil society, the EU is calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, so that the country can face the current crisis”.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree promising to release 1,500 prisoners belonging to Taliban as a goodwill gesture to get intra-Afghan negotiations started. (Image: social media)
A recent peace deal signed between the United States and the Taliban called for the release of up to 5,000 prisoners as precondition of the negotiations.
There was no official response from the Taliban, but the Associated Press news agency claims they saw a letter that Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, the head of the Taliban’s Prisoners Commission, sent to the prisoners, their families and Taliban leaders promising there would be no intra-Afghan talks until all the prisoners are released.
In a letter, sent around last weekend, President Ghani wrote that Taliban would verify that each prisoner released is among those on the list given to an American delegation.
The first round of 1,500 prisoners will be selected based on age, health and the length of their sentences already served. Each released Talib will be biometrically identified, and obliged to sign a written guarantee that they will not return to the battlefield. Taken in condiseration that the majority of them are illiterate, highly likelty that they will use ink to make an fingerpirnt on the document.
The remaining 3,500 prisoners will be released after intra-Afghan negotiations start and 500 will be released every two weeks providing the Taliban reduce violence on the battlefield, Ghani’s decree said.
“I welcome today’s announcement that an understanding has been reached on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan.”
“This is a critical test of the Taliban’s willingness and ability to reduce violence, and contribute to peace in good faith.”
“This could pave the way for negotiations among Afghans, sustainable peace, and ensuring the country is never again a safe haven for terrorists.
NATO Allies have been in Afghanistan since 2001. NATO currently has 16,000 troops in the country to support the Afghan security forces with training and funding, so that they can create the conditions for peace. NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability”
“We then discussed our support to the Afghanistan peace process. You might have seen the conclusions that have been adopted that highlight the concrete actions that the European Union is willing and ready to take in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, hopefully to be started already next week – as it was announced that intra-Afghan negotiations might start already next week” the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said, while concluding the work of the meeting of Foreign ministers Council in Luxembourg.
“We have been supporting enormously the work of the Afghan legitimate authorities in their preparation for that. I am glad to see that yesterday, President of Afghanistan, Ashraf] Ghani announced the formation of the negotiating team and a senior council to lead them. I really hope that, also following our talks in Kabul a couple of weeks ago, this can open the way for negotiations that can lead to peace in Afghanistan without pre-judging neither the electoral process nor the achievements that the Afghan population has managed to reach, in particular on the rights of women, minorities and human rights in general terms.”
The Council recommends that direct negotiations between Afghans, with the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban at their core begin as soon as possible.
It confirms the EU’s readiness to support the peace process and its implementation, wit the aim of preserving and building on the political, economic and social achievements of the people of Afghanistan since 2001, which should be irreversible. The EU stands ready to support the following aspects of the process:
- to help make the peace process inclusive;
- to assist with reforms, including security sector reform;
- to act as a guarantor of a peace process, if requested by the parties;
- to assist with reintegration of fighters and their families and
- to promote regional trade and connectivity.
Taliban group stormed and seized a military base located in Tarinkot, the administrative center of the province of Uruzgan. Reportedly a unit of the Afghan National Army was stationed at the base, sharing it with representatives of the police.
According to the Afghan media, a total of 25 soldiers and police were stationed in the base, 13 among them were killed in the attack.
According to information published by Taliban in social media, they killed 10 miliary and took 13 hostages. The authorities of Uruzgan Province and a representative of the Afghan Ministry of Defense confirmed the seizure of the military base without specifying the total number of casualties.
Security forces confronted Taliban fighters in key locations in northern Afghanistan leaving dozens of people killed and the city of Sar-e Pul threatened by insurgents, officials said.
Clashes started next to the provincial capital of Sar-e Pul for two days and at least 17 members of the security forces have been killed in the past 24 hours, according to the provincial governor’s spokesman Zabihullah Amani.
He said the figure was provisional and the real number of casualties may be higher.
The Taliban’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighters had overrun checkpoints no more than five km (three miles) from Sar-e Pul city center and seized a large quantity of weapons and equipment.
Two journalists were among 20 people killed in Kabul in twin bomb attacks on a wrestling club on September 5, with the second blast targeting media and emergency services at the scene of the initial explosion. The first attack took place around 6 p.m. local time when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest in the Maiwand Wrestling Club, according to deputy spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, Nasrat Rahimi.
“The EU stands in solidarity with Afghan people. We pay tribute to those who provided first assistance to the victims, as well as the media community, essential for the functioning of an open and tolerant society and democracy. The European Union’s commitment to support the people and authorities of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability remains as strong as ever” – says the text the European Action Service statement.
James Mattis, the US Defense Secretary, arrived in Kabul for an unannounced visit on September 7 US media reported.
Mattis and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were meeting with Army Gen. Scott Miller, the new commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, NBC News reported.
They intend to discuss situation with peace talks with the Taliban, despite a deteriorating security climate in the country.
Mattis is scheduled to conduct a town hall meeting with troops, attend a weekly memorial service and meet with senior Afghan leaders, officials said as quoted by NBC News.