The Taliban have declared a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan to mark this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday, just two days after the government blamed the group of bombs outside a school that killed more than 50 people. , mostly girls.
“The mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate have instructions to stop all offensive operations against the enemy throughout the country from the first to the third day of Eid,” said a statement released by the insurgents on Monday.
“But if the enemy carries out any assault or attack against you during these days, be ready to protect yourself and vigorously defend yourselves and your territory,” he added.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and the holiday begins based on the sighting of the new moon.
The ceasefire comes after the government blamed the Taliban for the attack in front of a girls’ school in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb of the capital largely populated by the Shiite Hazara community, which is often targeted by extremist Sunni Islamic militants.
The Taliban denied being involved in the attack, the deadliest in the country in more than a year.
Saturday’s explosions came as the United States continued to withdraw its last 2,500 soldiers from the country despite faltering peace efforts between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end a decades-long war.
Dozens of girls killed in Saturday’s blasts that targeted a high school in western Kabul were buried Sunday in a desolate hilltop cemetery in the capital.
A series of blasts outside the school during a peak Christmas shopping period killed 58 people, mostly female students, and injured more than 100 in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb populated mainly by Hazara Shiites.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry told reporters that a car bomb detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada girls’ school, and when students ran out in panic, two more devices exploded. Residents were shopping ahead of this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday when the explosions occurred.
Mohammad Taqi, a Dasht-e-Barchi resident whose two daughters were students at the school but had escaped the attack, told AFP that after the attack: “I ran to the scene and found myself in the middle of the bodies. They were all girls. Their bodies stacked on top of each other. “
Another resident also described running to the school gate after hearing an explosion. “Countless girls were lying on the street in blood, some were immobile and many more were screaming from their wounds,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do, where to start.”
On Sunday, relatives buried the dead at a hilltop site known as the Cemetery of the Martyrs, where victims of attacks on the Hazara community rest. The Hazaras are Shiite Muslims and are considered heretics by Sunni extremists. Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the Afghan population.
“We buried 37 bodies in a single cemetery; they were all students, many of them wore their black and white school uniforms, “said Sharif Watandoost, a member of a group of volunteers that helps families bury the victims. “Some had shrapnel wounds, some were burned, many were shattered.
The Taliban denied their involvement and said they had not carried out an attack in the capital since February last year. But the group has clashed with Afghan forces on a daily basis in the rugged countryside, even as the US military reduces its presence. The United States was supposed to have withdrawn all forces by May 1, as agreed with the Taliban, but Washington delayed the date until September 11, a move that angered the insurgents.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism