Taliban members take selfies, hug Afghan soldiers during unprecedented Eid ceasefire

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Taliban members take selfies, hug Afghan soldiers during unprecedented Eid ceasefire

KABUL-A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber struck a gathering of Taliban members and Afghan security forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Saturday, killing at least 26 people, officials said, breaking the lull of the second day of a cease-fire in Afghanistan.

An explosion in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar has killed at least 10 people and left another 30 wounded.

The US commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan General John Nicholson said recently that the Taliban was engaged in a process of "talking and fighting", and that some factions were involved in secret peace negotiations.

An offshoot of the Islamic State, which has had a foothold in the province and has been behind some of the deadliest recent attacks there, claimed responsibility for the attack outside the provincial capital of Jalalabad, according to the tracking group Terror Monitor.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced on Saturday that his government's ceasefire with the Taliban will be extended another day, even as a suicide bombing killed and injured dozens.

"The ceasefire ends tonight and our operations will begin, inshallah".

The extension of the cease-fire "provides a clear opportunity for initiating a negotiated solution to the conflict", Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, said. A senior council member said the ceasefire could be extended if a date was established for USA forces to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview that he could not confirm Fazlullah's death because of the remoteness of the area but also because Afghanistan's Taliban are not present in that area.

Ghani's office has yet to declare a new timeframe for the extended government ceasefire.

Villagers also flocked around the insurgents, hugging them and happily taking selfies with the heavily armed fighters as they celebrated the Muslim holiday capping the holy month of Ramadan.

Traffic jams formed in the capital Kabul, where people stopped to take pictures of the fighters, who in turn urged people to join them in selfies. "We have no intention to extend the ceasefire", Mujahid told AFP in a WhatsApp message. The Afghan government is under heavy pressure to restore security and take back territory controlled by a number of insurgent groups, including the Taliban and IS.

Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) on Sunday called on the Taliban to extend the ceasefire at the request of the people. "Can Kabul police guarantee our security?"

For many Afghans it has been first glimpse of peace in their lifetime.

Pakistan's caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk described the killing of Pakistan Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah in a US drone strike in Afghanistan as a "significant development in the fight against terrorism". For the first time we felt safe.

"Popular support for this initiative is overwhelming: Afghans of all sides, Government officials, soldiers, Taliban exchanging Eid greetings and attending prayers together have given all a sense of what peace could look like", she said. "It is hard to describe the joy".

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