Taliban militants have abducted dozens of passengers traveling in three buses in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, government officials say.
Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the Kunduz governor, said the kidnapping took place on Monday morning when the buses – with some 170 passengers reportedly on board – were heading from the northeastern province of Takhar to the capital, Kabul.
“The buses were stopped by the Taliban, passengers were forced to step down and they have been taken to an undisclosed location,” he said.
Sayed Assadullah Sadat, a Kunduz provincial council member, said the Afghans were traveling to meet their families in Kabul during the holiday for the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha or the feast of sacrifice.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, told Reuters they attacked the bus after “intelligence inputs revealed that many men working with Afghan security forces” were on board.
“We have taken the buses to a safe area to prevent any clashes and we are now identifying members of the security forces,” he added.
The abduction comes a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a 90-day conditional ceasefire with the militant group on the occasion of Eid al-Adha.
Reacting to the announcement, Taliban sources said their leaders had provisionally agreed to a four-day truce during the occasion. The militant group also said it would free hundreds of prisoners.
The announcement comes in the wake of fighting in the central city of Ghazni, a strategically important region the Taliban have been battling to bring under control.
At least 150 Afghan soldiers and 95 civilians were killed in a five-day siege that eased last week, when Afghan troops pushed back the heavily armed militants.
The Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 following a US-led invasion. The group has, however, been involved in widespread militancy, killing thousands of civilians as well as Afghan and US forces.