ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - At least 25 people were killed in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday when a suicide blast ripped through a crowd of government soldiers, Taliban insurgents and civilians celebrating a mutual temporary cease-fire during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Security sources confirmed to VOA that Afghan security personnel, Taliban fighters and civilians were among the victims. A government spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told VOA the bombing on the outskirts of Jalabalad, capital of Nangarhar province, also seriously injured at least 30 people.
The deputy head of the provincial council told VOA the attack was carried out by a suicide car bomber. IS has established strong bases in Nangarhar, and its militants routinely carry out targeted killings and suicide bombings.
Saturday's blast coincided with a brief televised announcement from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who praised the mutual cease-fire and unilaterally extended the government's cease-fire.
It was not immediately known whether the Taliban also was intending to extend its three-day truce.
"To respect the public's wishes and to support their demands about peace, I am ordering the security and defense forces to extend the cease-fire from the fourth day of Eid. We will soon share the details of the proposed cease-fire with the nation," Ghani said.
He went on to urge the Taliban to extend its cease-fire, and he offered medical assistance to wounded insurgents.
The U.S. State Department responded to Ghani's announcement Saturday with a statement saying it stood with Ghani and his offer.
"We support President Ghani's offer to extend the cease-fire and begin peace talks," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. "Peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces. The United States is prepared to support, facilitate and participate in these discussions."
American forces and NATO's non-combatant Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan welcomed an extension of the cease-fire by Ghani and his offer to begin peace talks with the Taliban.
"The United States is prepared to support, facilitate and participate in these discussions," the mission said in a statement.
The Afghan president reiterated his offer of direct talks with the Taliban to resolve mutual differences and end the conflict. "We are ready for comprehensive negotiation. All those issues and demands that have been put forth, we are ready to discuss them at the peace talks," Ghani said.
The Afghan government and the Taliban for the first time in more than 17 years began observing a mutual cease-fire on Friday, the opening day of the three-day Eid festival.
The temporary cessation of hostilities was being widely welcomed in and outside war-shattered Afghanistan, raising hopes it might lead to long-sought peace talks between the government and the Taliban to end years of deadly hostilities.
The government reiterated that the cease-fire was with the Taliban and did not include U.S. counterterrorism efforts against IS, al-Qaida, and other regional and international terrorist groups.
The government unilaterally suspended anti-Taliban offensive Tuesday, prompting the insurgents to stop fighting during Eid. The holiday ends Sunday.