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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Taliban kidnap dozens of bus passengers in Afghanistan despite ceasefire

The buses were on their way to Kabul for the Eid Al Adha holiday 

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers search vehicles at a checkpoint in Jalalabad. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban in a televised broadcast. AFP 
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers search vehicles at a checkpoint in Jalalabad. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban in a televised broadcast. AFP 

Taliban insurgents kidnapped dozens of passengers after stopping three buses in northern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said, a day after the government announced a ceasefire with them.

Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province, said the kidnapping happened when three buses were travelling through Kunduz from Takhar province, on their way to the capital, Kabul.

"The buses were stopped by the Taliban fighters, passengers were forced to step down and they have been taken to an undisclosed location," Mr Muradi said.

President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban on Sunday to mark the Eid Al Adha holiday, even though fighting against the Western-backed government in Kabul and NATO coalition forces has increased.

The Taliban confirmed that "three buses packed with passengers" were in their custody.

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"We decided to seize the buses after our intelligence inputs revealed that many men working with Afghan security forces were travelling to Kabul in these buses," Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said by telephone.

"We have taken the buses to a safe area to prevent any clashes and we are now identifying members of the security forces," he said, adding that civilians would be released soon.

Taliban sources said earlier that their leaders had provisionally agreed on a four-day truce, although supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada still had to give his final approval.

The militants, fighting to expel Western forces and defeat the Western-backed Kabul government, said they would free hundreds of prisoners, without going into further details.

Mujahid said top leaders had not declared a ceasefire, but they would release at least 500 prisoners, including members of the Afghan security forces on Monday, a day before Eid celebrations begin.

"We will release some prisoners captured during clashes in three provinces," he said.

But he did not answer questions about the release of any soldiers or policemen travelling on the three buses.

A provincial council member in Kunduz said "a total of 300 to 400 passengers" could have been on the buses when the insurgents stopped them.

Officials were going to the scene to investigate and to try to recover the passengers.

Kunduz provincial council member Sayed Assadullah Sadat said people on the buses were travelling to be with family in Kabul for the holiday.

"The buses were packed with people and maybe there were army soldiers and police," he said.

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