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Afghan Bomb Blast Kills 17



A car bomb blast in the capital city of the Afghan province of Logarn killed at least 17 people and injured dozens more, according to local Afghan officials who spoke to VOA.

They said the suicide bomber targeted a security force’s convoy in the provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid swiftly denied involvement, saying their fighters had nothing to do with the attack, which came just hours before the three-day Taliban Eid ceasefire went into effect.

The festivities started Friday and the Afghan government ordered security forces to cease operations against the insurgents. After Friday morning special Eid prayers, President Ashraf Ghani announced in a televised speech that his government is working to release the remaining up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in response to the release of all 1,000 Afghan security forces from insurgent custody under a prisoner swap stipulated in the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement.

Ghani said, however, he is not authorized to let the prisoners go on his own. He said a special jirga meeting, or council of lawmakers, will be convened to decide the fate of the remaining prisoners so the intra-Afghan talks can begin.

The Taliban freed all 1,000 of their detainees on the eve of the Eid but linked its participation in intra-Afghan peace talks to the release of all its 5,000 prisoners from Afghan jails.

Also Friday, Afghan authorities alleged cross-border fire from the Pakistani Army killed at least nine civilians and injured 50 others in the southern border town of Spin Boldak.

The Afghan army chief said in a statement that he has ordered his forces to prepare for a retaliation, raising tensions.

Pakistani officials said that thousands of Afghans attempted to illegally cross into Pakistan from the border entry point in the area. Local Pakistani officials are confirming they opened aerial firing on their side of the border; there are no comments from Pakistan about cross-border fire.