Taliban take at least 100 people hostage, Afghanistan officials say

The Taliban ambushed a convoy of busses Monday on a road in northern Afghanistan and took more than 100 people hostage, including women and children, in the latest brazen assault by insurgents, provincial officials said.

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 fate of the abducted in Kunduz province — in an area that has recently fallen under Taliban control — was not immediately known and there was no statement from the insurgents.

The Taliban have resurged in recent years, seizing entire districts across Afghanistan and regularly carrying out large-scale bombings and attacks that have killed scores of people.

No news on fate of passengers

According to Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council in Kunduz, the insurgents stopped three busses on the road near Khan Abad district and forced the passengers to come with them.

Ayubi said he believes the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces who usually go home for the holidays.

Taliban fighters gather with residents to celebrate a three-day ceasefire in June marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a conditional ceasefire Sunday with Taliban insurgents for the duration of the Eid al-Adha holiday, but the group apparently took dozens of hostages Monday. (Rahmat Gul/Associated Press)

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief in neighbouring Takhar province, said the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and were travelling to the capital, Kabul.

"So far, there is no news on the fate of the passengers, but tribal elders and local officials are trying to negotiate with the Taliban," Ayubi added.

99 years of independence

In his call on Sunday for the truce, Ghani said "the ceasefire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban's stand."

Ghani made the announcement during celebrations of the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan's independence, just a day after the leader of the Afghan Taliban said that there will be no peace in the country as long as the "foreign occupation" continues.

The militant leader, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah, reiterated the group's 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 pointing to any ceasefire — the Taliban leader said on Saturday that the insurgents remain committed to "Islamic 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.

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

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