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MANAMA, June 18, 2018 (MENA) - Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the “terrorist attack that targeted a gathering in Rodat District, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which resulted in the death and injury of a number of security forces and civilians,” the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported late Sunday.

“The Ministry expresses sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and wishes the injured speedy recovery,” a statement by the Foreign Ministry said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms that the Kingdom of Bahrain stands by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism. It reaffirms the position of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which rejects violence and terrorism in all its forms, regardless of its motives and justifications, and stresses the importance of strengthening international efforts aimed at eliminating terrorism that threatens international peace and security,” the statement added.

KABUL, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The death toll from a suicide bombing against a gathering of Taliban and Afghan armed forces celebrating a holiday cease-fire in Afghanistan has risen to 36, an official said Sunday.

Najibullah Kamawal, director of the health department in the eastern Nangarhar province, said another 65 people were wounded in Saturday's attack.

The bomber targeted a gathering Taliban and Afghan armed forces who were celebrating a three-day truce coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

After the attack, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a nine-day extension of the cease-fire. The three-day holiday and cease-fire ends Sunday.

The chairman of the High Peace Council, a government body charged with negotiating an end to the nearly 17-year war, called on the Taliban to accept the extended cease-fire and join the peace process.

"We hope that the extension of the cease-fire will be announced by the leadership of the Taliban," Mohammad Karim Khalili told a press conference in the capital, Kabul. He said there had been an "exchange of views" between the government and the Taliban over the past week, without elaborating.

KABUL, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - A car bomb killed at least 26 people at a gathering of Taliban and Afghan armed forces in the eastern city of Nangarhar Saturday, an official said, as soldiers and militants celebrated an unprecedented Eid ceasefire.

Islamic State claimed responsibility. The group’s Amaq news agency said the target was “a gathering of Afghan forces” but gave no details. The Taliban had already denied involvement.

Dozens of unarmed Taliban militants had earlier entered the Afghan capital and other cities to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting season. Soldiers and militants exchanged hugs and took selfies on their smartphones.

Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar, confirmed a car bomb was responsible for the blast in the town of Ghazi Aminullah Khan, on the main Torkham-Jalalabad road, and said that dozens were wounded. He had earlier said a rocket-propelled grenade was to blame.

The Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday, which began on Friday, except against foreign forces. It overlaps with an Afghan government ceasefire which lasts until Wednesday.

President Ashraf Ghani said in an address to the nation that he would extend the ceasefire with the Taliban but did not give a time-frame. He also asked the Taliban to extend their three-day ceasefire, which is due to end on today, and begin peace talks.

It was not clear if Ghani knew about the bomb in the east when he made his address.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Ghani’s address, saying peace talks would have to include a discussion on the role of “international actors and forces”.

“The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in these discussions,” Pompeo said in a statement. “... The United States stands ready to work with the Afghan government, the Taliban, and all the people of Afghanistan to reach a peace agreement and political settlement that brings a permanent end to this war.”

The Taliban are fighting US-led Nato forces, combined under the Resolute Support mission, and the US-backed government to restore sharia, or Islamic law, after their ouster by US-led forces in 2001.

Nato-led Resolute Support and US Forces-Afghanistan both said they supported Ghani’s ceasefire extension.

Taliban wearing traditional headgear entered Kabul through gates in the south and southeast. Traffic jams formed where people stopped to take pictures of the fighters with their flags. The Taliban urged people to come forward and take selfies.

KABUL, June 13, 2018 (News Wires) - The Taliban told “American invaders” to leave Afghanistan in an announcement marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, assured the people of a bright future under Islamic rule and said it had already liberated “vast areas” of the country.

The Taliban, who announced a surprise three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday, except against foreign forces, also denounced the US relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, which “further exposes the absolute hatred of American officials towards Islam”.

Taliban leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada said in the statement that Afghans’ salvation lay in “American and other occupying forces” leaving and repeated a call for talks with the United States.

“If the American officials truly believe in a peaceful end to the Afghan imbroglio, then they must directly present themselves at the negotiation table,” Akhunzada said.

“We also assure our nation (of) a bright future for our country accompanied by peace and prosperity, Allah willing,” he added.

The Taliban are fighting US-led NATO forces, combined under the Resolute Support mission, and the US-backed government to restore sharia, or Islamic law, after their ouster by US-led forces in 2001.

“The American invaders have not desisted from any brutality and severity in pursuit of subduing our nation. They bomb our villages, cities, mosques, madrassas and other events, murder innocent civilians, forcibly displace them and torment thousands of Afghans through unimaginable torture in prisons,” Akhunzada said.

Resolute Support said in response it was hopeful that the Taliban stick to their ceasefire “and we hope that pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation”.

“Considering more than 90 per cent of the casualties in Taliban high-profile attacks in Kabul this year are civilians, which is up from more than 80 per cent in 2017 and 60 per cent in 2016, peace for Afghanistan is overdue,” spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell said.

The Taliban banned cinema, TV and music during their five-year rule, deeming them un-Islamic, and insisted that women wear all-enveloping burqas. They inflicted harsh punishments for those who did not adhere to their interpretation of Islam.

But observers say life in Taliban-ruled areas now is much more relaxed, with music and TV permitted, girls allowed to go to school up to the age of 11, and women allowed to wear less restrictive dress.

Akhunzada said the Taliban had established “exemplary peace” in areas they control.

SIGAR, a US Congressional watchdog, said in a recent report that the government controlled areas with about 65 per cent of the population and controlled or influenced 56.3 per cent of districts, the second lowest level since 2015, the first year after most international forces left Afghanistan.

CAIRO, June 12, 2018 - The Cairo government condemns the latest terrorist attack on a ministry office western of Afghanistan's capital Kabul that killed at least 13 people and injured more than 30 others, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesteray.

The statement expressed Egypt's condolences as well as its solidarity with the Afghan government and people "in confrontation of sinful terrorism that targets innocent people during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan”.

"The attack violates the tolerant principles of Islam," the statement, carried by the official Middle East News Agency (MENA), said.

The explosion took place Monday when a bomber detonated his explosive vest at the front gate of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development western of the capital Kabul.

The Islamic State (IS) regional terrorist group claimed responsibility for the blast.

The attack came a week after a similar suicide bombing on a gathering of Afghan clerics in Kabul that left at least 14 dead and more than 20 wounded.

Afghanistan has been hit by insurgency over the past couple of decades with the presence of different militant groups including the most dominant Taliban, in addition to al-Qaida and recently the IS.

KABUL, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - The Afghan Taliban on Saturday announced a surprise three-day ceasefire over the Muslim Eid holiday in the middle of June, their first offer of its kind, days after the government declared an unconditional ceasefire of its own.

The militants said foreign forces would be excluded from the ceasefire and that operations against them would continue. They also said they would defend themselves against any attack.

"Members of the Taliban should not participate in public gatherings during the Eid festivities because the enemy could target us," they said in a statement.

The presidential palace welcomed the announcement and said it hoped it can lead to lasting peace. Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan's Ambassador to neighboring Pakistan, described the announcement as an "important step towards prospects for peace".

"Hope the pleasure of shedding no Afghan blood in Eid becomes so overwhelming that rest of year is also declared as Afghan Eid," he said on Twitter.

The Taliban attacked security outposts in the Zawul district of western Herat province on Friday night, killing 17 troops and wounding several, Jelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor, said.

It was not clear exactly when the ceasefire would begin, as Eid starts when the moon is first sighted, but Afghan calendars mark Friday June 15 as the end of Ramadan.

Eid is the biggest festival in the Muslim calendar when families visit each other's homes, enjoy feasting and in Afghanistan tend graves of fallen loved ones. The Taliban, seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster at the hands of U.S.-led troops, have launched attacks during Eid in the past.

"In three days, maybe the unity of Taliban insurgents will be put to test," a European diplomat told Reuters. "If different factions don’t accept the ceasefire, then attacks will continue."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban on Thursday, until June 20, but excluding other militant groups, such as Islamic State.

Ghani's decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings, one of which, claimed by Islamic State, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics' peace tent in Kabul.

The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban and Ghani endorsed the recommendation.

Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war.

Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among options including new elections involving the militants and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that last year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 civilians.

In August, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes, aimed at forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge swaths of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.

The Taliban's announcement comes as Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to sit down to a summit in Singapore on Tuesday, something few people would have predicted just months ago when threats between the two sides were at their most bellicose.

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