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Taliban Breaks Afghanistan's Eid Ceasefire in Pre-Dawn Attack


FILE - An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier fires a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during a military operation in Badghis Province.
FILE - An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier fires a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during a military operation in Badghis Province.

A pre-dawn Taliban attack in western Afghanistan killed 30 members of government forces, the deadliest insurgent raid since a nationwide temporary cease-fire during the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr.

Local officials said Taliban Insurgents assaulted Afghan National Army (ANA) posts Wednesday in the Bala Murghab district in the Badghis province, triggering fierce clashes in the area, with both sides suffering casualties.

Provincial governor Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai told VOA the ANA lost 30 troops when a convoy of soldiers heading to the fighting zone was ambushed by Taliban fighters.

A spokesman for the ministry of defense in Kabul confirmed to VOA the clashes left 13 Afghan soldiers dead and eight others wounded.

Security officials in Badghis said Afghan forces also inflicted heavy casualties on the opposition, killing 15 Taliban assailants.

The Taliban ended its three-day ceasefire on Sunday while the government extended a unilateral week-long ceasefire, initially due to end on Wednesday, by 10 days.This was the first time in 17 years that Afghan warring sides temporarily suspended battlefield operations.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hoped his initiative to suspend anti-Taliban security operations would encourage the insurgents to extend their ceasefire to pave the way for direct peace talks.The United States had also paused its operations against the Taliban to honor Ghani's ceasefire.

But the Taliban refused to extend its ceasefire and resumed battlefield attacks early Monday.

The deputy commander of NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan called the Taliban's decision to resume fighting disappointing, but held out hope the brief ceasefire could be something upon which both the Taliban and the Afghan government can build.

"I truly believe we stand on the edge of opportunity here in Afghanistan," British Lt. Gen. Richard Cripwell told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon.

"I cannot understate the sense of optimism that is in the country," he said."The scenes here in Kabul would certainly give anybody hope that the ceasefire is possible in the future."

U.S. and Afghan officials have spoken in the past about groups of Taliban commanders and fighters who have sought ways to speed up the reconciliation process and make peace, including in Badghis, where Wednesday's attacks took place.

But they say many have been forced to return to the fight after higher ranking Taliban officials threatened their families.

Resolute Support's Cripwell said similar sentiments may have spiked chances for a prolonged ceasefire this time, too.

"Clearly between the events of Saturday that we saw all over the country and to the fact that was significantly reduced on Sunday, suggest that at least somebody wasn't keen to see Taliban fighters taking selfies and eating ice cream," he said.

The insurgent group says no intra-Afghan negotiations are possible until all U.S.-led foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

The Taliban dismisses the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet and has repeatedly called for direct talks with Washington.The insurgent group blames the presence of U.S.-led foreign forces for initiating and prolonging the Afghan war.

The U.S.-led international military alliance ousted the Taliban from power in 2001 to punish it for harboring the al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan.