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KABUL, August 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Taliban insurgents kidnapped dozens of passengers after stopping three buses in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, a government official said on Monday, a day after the government announced a ceasefire with the Islamist militants.

Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the Kunduz governor, said the kidnapping happened on Monday morning when three buses were coming from Takhar province to the capital, Kabul.

“The buses were stopped by the Taliban fighters, passengers were forced to step down and they have been taken to an undisclosed location,” he said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban on Sunday to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday, even though fighting against the Western-backed government in Kabul and NATO coalition forces has increased.

Taliban sources said their leaders had also provisionally agreed on a four-day truce, although supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada still had to give his final approval. The militants said they would free hundreds of prisoners, without going into further details.

A provincial council member in Kunduz said “a total of 300 to 400 passengers” could have been on the buses when they were stopped by insurgents, although it had not been confirmed whether the Taliban were responsible.

Officials were rushing to the scene to investigate and rescue the passengers.

Sayed Assadullah Sadat, a Kunduz provincial council member, said Afghans were on holiday for the annual Islamic feast of sacrifice and that many were travelling to meet family in Kabul.

“Buses were packed with people and maybe there were army soldiers and police in the buses,” he said.

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 16, 2018 (AP) — Gunmen besieged a compound belonging to the Afghan intelligence service in Kabul on Thursday, police said, as the city's Shi'ite residents held funeral services for the victims of a horrific suicide bombing the previous day that left 34 dead.

Police officer Abdul Rahman told The Associated Press from the location of the morning siege in a northwestern neighbourhood of Kabul that the gunmen were holed up in a partially constructed building near the compound from where they were opening fire.

The shooting — which underscored the near-daily, persistent threats in war-battered Afghanistan — was sporadic and it wasn't immediately clear how many gunmen are involved in the assault. Afghan security personnel have surrounded the building and have the situation under control, he said.

Kabul's police spokesman, Hashmat Stanekzi, said there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Authorities, meanwhile, revised the death toll from Wednesday's bombing in Kabul's neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi to 34 killed, not 48.

Most of the victims were young men and women, high school graduates preparing for university entrance exams in the Shi'ite area's educational centre when the bomber walked into the building and blew himself up.

The city's hospitals were overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of the bombing as officials collected data on the casualties, leading to the confusion and the wrong toll.

The Dasht-e-Barchi area is populated by members of Afghanistan's minority ethnic Hazaras — a Shi'ite community that has in the past been targeted by similar large-scale attacks such as the Wednesday bombing, which also wounded 56 people, according to Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh.

No one has so far claimed responsibility for the bombing but officials blame the Islamic State group, which considers Shi'ites to be heretics and frequently targets them, attacking their mosques, schools and cultural centres.

In the past two years, there have been at least 13 attacks on the Shi'ite community in Kabul alone.

Fifteen of the victims' bodies were taken on Thursday to a Hazara community compound in Kabul where a mass funeral service was being held. The remaining victims will be taken to their villages to be buried there, said Gulam Hassan, the cousin of one of the victims.

The attacks come at the end of more than a week of assaults that have left scores of Afghan troops and civilians dead. The attacks also show how militants are still able to stage large-scale attacks, even in the capital of Kabul, and undermine efforts by Afghan forces to provide security and stability on their own.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the "terrorist" attack on the Shi'ite centre in Kabul that "martyred and wounded the innocent" — students attending class — and ordered an investigation into the attack.

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 14, 2018 (News Wires) — The spokesman for the Defence Ministry in Kabul says the Taliban have overrun a military base in northern Afghanistan, killing 17 soldiers and wounding at least 19 troops.

Ghafor Ahmad Jawed says the insurgents overrun the base late on Monday night in Faryab province, in the district of Ghormach, after besieging it for three days.

The local provincial council chief, Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, says 43 troops were killed and wounded in the attack but didn't give a breakdown.

He says the Taliban attack succeeded in taking control of the base, known as Camp Chinaya, which housed about 140 Afghan troops.

Rahmani says the base fell to the Taliban after the soldiers resisted the three-day onslaught. He says they didn't get any reinforcements and ran out of ammunition, food and water.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in Faryab. He says 57 Afghan soldiers surrendered to the Taliban while 17 others were captured in battle. He says eight military Humvees were seized.

Afghan officials say security forces have pushed back the Taliban from Ghazni and are now trying to flush the insurgents from the city's outskirts.

The operations come on the fifth day after a massive Taliban attack on the provincial capital of Ghazni.

Hundreds of people have fled the fighting in Ghazni, which has killed about 100 members of the Afghan security forces and at least 20 civilians.

Nasart Rahimi, a deputy spokesman at the Interior Ministry, says security forces were searching every inch of Ghazni for Taliban fighters on Tuesday.

Abdul Karim Arghandiwal, an army media officer in southeastern Afghanistan, says military helicopters are supporting the ground forces' operations in Ghazni.

KABUL, August 12, 2018 (News Wires) - A delegation from the Afghan Taliban met officials in Uzbekistan during a five-day trip to the country last week to discuss issues including transport and power lines and peace in Afghanistan, the movement's political office said.

Mohamed Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office, said on Saturday Taliban representatives met Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov and Special Representative for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev during the August 6-10 visit.

He said they "discussed current and future national projects such as security for railroad and power lines."

"Views were also exchanged with officials of Uzbekistan about the withdrawal of foreign forces and how to achieve peace in Afghanistan," he said.

The statement, issued as Taliban fighters were battling government forces for control of the central city of Ghazni, adds to a mixed series of signals since an unexpected three-day truce during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June.

Taliban representatives have met US officials to talk about the framework for possible peace talks and the Western-backed government is considering offering a second ceasefire during the Eid al-Adha holiday later this month.

But at the same time, fierce fighting has continued in different parts of Afghanistan, inflicting heavy casualties on soldiers and police and threatening the security of parliamentary elections scheduled in October.

The attack on Ghazni, which controls a vital highway between the capital Kabul and southern Afghanistan, has given the insurgents their highest profile success since they came close to taking the western city of Farah in May.

The rail and power links from Uzbekistan are vital both for cross-border trade and for maintaining Afghanistan's shaky power supplies, which are already subject to frequent blackouts.

The Taliban, fighting to topple the Western-backed government and drive out international forces, have generally refrained from sabotaging vital infrastructure and have sought to reassure neighbouring countries about their aims.

A senior Taliban official said the movement had established a political office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent aimed at developing better ties and showing that they did not intend to support local insurgent groups.

KABUL, July 28, 2018 (MENA) - Six policemen manning a security check-post have been killed in a Taliban attack in the capital of southern Zabul province, an official was quoted by Pajhwok Afghan News Agency as saying on Saturday.

A security source, wishing anonymity, said that the militants stormed the security check-post on the Kabul-Kandahar highway in the limits of Qalat.

He said six police personnel were killed and their weapons and ammunition seized. The source said the insurgents also suffered casualties but he was unaware of exact figures.

On the other hand, the Taliban claimed killing 10 policemen in the overnight attack.

KABUL, July 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan on Tuesday rejected reports its commander General John Nicholson had said the United States was ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban, saying his comments were "mischaracterised".

In a statement, it referred to reports on Monday in which Nicholson reiterated comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the possibility of talks with the Taliban involving the United States.

"The United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government," Nicholson said in a statement.

"My reaffirmation of Secretary Pompeo's statement in which he said peace talks would include a discussion of international forces and that the United States is ready to work with the Taliban, the Afghan government and the Afghan people towards lasting peace was mischaracterised," he said.

The Taliban have rejected talks with the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which they see as illegitimate and instead insisted they would only talk with the United States.

In his comments on Monday, Nicholson said the United States recognised it had an important role to play in the peace process.

"Our Secretary of State, Mr Pompeo, has said that we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces," he said. "We hope that they realise this and that this will help to move forward the peace process."

The remarks come amid growing speculation about moves to open talks with the Taliban following an unprecedented three-day ceasefire during last month's Eid holiday.

Last month, Pompeo said the United States was ready to "support, facilitate and participate" in discussions with the Taliban over the role of international forces in Afghanistan but that the peace process would be Afghan-led.

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