Afghan Taliban kidnap dozens of bus passengers near Kunduz

Sergio Conner
August 20, 2018

The Taliban ambushed a convoy of buses on Monday on a road in northern Afghanistan and took more than 100 people hostage, including women and children, in the latest brazen assault by insurgents, provincial officials said.

"The last ceasefire in Afghanistan revealed the deep desire of the Afghan people to end the conflict, and we hope another ceasefire will move the country closer to sustainable security", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

"I once again announce a ceasefire from tomorrow until the prophet's birthday provided that the Taliban reciprocate", said Ghani, referring to the Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) birthday which Afghanistan celebrates on November 21.

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council in Kunduz province, said the insurgents stopped the buses near Khan Abad district.

The buses, carrying passengers from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces, were on their way to the capital, Kabul, according to Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief of the Takhar province.

"We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of the Afghan people for a long lasting and real peace, and we urge them to prepare for peace talks based on Islamic values and principles", he said.

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"The passengers were taken hostage on Monday morning when they were on their way to the capital Kabul from Takhar province", a spokesperson for the Kunduz governor, Esmatullah Muradi, told Al Jazeera.

There was no comment from the Taliban but the area of the incident is under Taliban control. The Taliban accepted that three-day truce but later rejected a call by the president to extend it.

Though it didn't directly mention Mr. Ghani's cease-fire offer, the Taliban responded immediately by saying it would release hundreds of soldiers, police and other government employees from its jails to mark Eid al-Adha.

This month at least 150 soldiers and 95 civilians were killed in a five-day battle for control of Ghazni.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops in 2014.

In a message released on the occasion of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah said Saturday that the group remains committed to "Islamic goals", the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war. Since then, American forces, now in a training and advising role, have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces.

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