Taliban Announces Limited Cease-Fire
The Taliban announced Saturday it will halt offensive operations against government security forces across Afghanistan during three-day festivities of Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The cease-fire coincides with the unilateral weeklong halting of anti-Taliban operations by the Afghan government starting Tuesday.
An insurgent statement said the Taliban leadership has also ordered his fighters not to hold meetings in civilian areas during the holiday period to enable their countrymen peacefully celebrate the festival. But it vowed to continue attacks on U.S.-led foreign troops in the country.
This will be the first time since 2002 that the Islamist insurgency will cease hostilities in Afghanistan where it currently controls or contests nearly half of 407 Afghan districts.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal swiftly welcomed the insurgent gesture.
The Taliban in its announcement from its chief Mullah Hibatullah Akhunzada, has also said it will release some prisoners after seeking commitments from them that they will not rejoin Afghan forces.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier this week ordered his forces to stop offensive operations against the Taliban to encourage insurgents to come to the table and seek a negotiated end to the 17 year old conflict.
The move has been widely welcomed and the U.S. has promised to honor Ghani’s peace gesture.
Washington confirmed Thursday it has asked neighboring Pakistan to help in facilitating an Afghan peace and reconciliation process by persuading the Taliban to engage in talks with Kabul.
Al Shabab Hits a Somali Outpost, One American Dead
One U.S. special operations soldier is dead and four wounded after al-Qaida linked militants attacked an outpost still under construction Friday in southwestern Somalia.
Friday's attack, about 50 kilometers north of the port city of Kismayo, came as U.S. forces were helping Somali and Kenyan troops construct the outpost, part of a multi-day mission to help clear the area of militants with the al Shabab terror group, according to U.S. military officials.
Witnesses said the attack took place while the U.S. Somali and Kenyan troops were digging trenches and setting up other defenses. They said the militants first set off a series of explosions before targeting the forces with heavy gunfire and mortar rounds
Despite the attack, U.S. officials say the Somali and Kenyan forces were able to complete the outpost, and that the Somali government will be able to use it to push al Shabab from the region.
The death of the U.S. soldier in Somalia is the second in the last two years.