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Temporary Afghan ceasefire to begin after intense violence

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Temporary three-day ceasefire begins in Afghanistan. (Photo by AFP)

A three-day ceasefire is set to come into effect in Afghanistan in observance of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, following weeks of intensified violence across the war-ravaged country.

The truce, which was proposed by the Taliban militant group and agreed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was due to come into force on Thursday, as people celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“I have not seen my relatives who live in Logar province for about a year. I will use this opportunity to go to the Taliban-controlled areas and visit them,” a Kabul resident said.

The three-day ceasefire comes as at least 200 civilians have been killed and some 500 others injured following the Taliban's increasing attacks since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan, according to Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry. 

The Taliban have denied involvement in the acts of terror and civilian deaths.

On Monday, the Taliban released a statement, saying the group had instructed its militants “to halt all offensive operations against the enemy countrywide from the first till the third day of Eid.”

Ghani urged the Taliban to announce a permanent truce later in the day.

The development came two days after the latest massacre in Kabul, in which as many as 63 people, all students, were killed and 150 more wounded in a bomb explosion that took place near Sayed-ul-Shuhada High School in the west of the capital.

The incident is yet to be claimed by any group.

The declaration of the three-day ceasefire by the Taliban has been widely welcomed in Afghanistan.

Locals, who are bearing the brunt of violence, say they expect the Taliban to agree to a permanent ceasefire in the hopes that it would lead to lasting peace.

This will be only the fourth pause in fighting in nearly 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has witnessed a sharp increase in civilian deaths due to rising terrorist attacks in recent months.

Several provinces have been rocked by violence in recent weeks, and on Tuesday the militants seized a key district near the capital, despite the announcement of the three-day truce.  

The surge in violence came after the United States missed a May 1 deadline, agreed with the Taliban last year, to withdraw all of its troops. Washington pushed back the date to September 11.

While the Taliban have avoided engaging American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have not stopped.

The Taliban, however, have issued a warning, pledging to attack US troops if they failed to withdraw as scheduled.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said it would continue to support Afghanistan.

"Let me assure you that we have no plans to go anywhere. We intend to stay the course and work with all of you," said Deborah Lyons, head of UNAMA in a statement to mark Eid al-Fitr.

The Taliban militant group and the Afghan government launched peace talks in September last year, but progress has stalled despite international efforts to jumpstart the negotiations.

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