Taliban fighters are currently holding 21 people hostage in Afghanistan’s northern province of Kunduz after ambushing a convoy of three buses traveling in the Khan Abad district, reports CNN.
Provincial spokesman Ismatullah Muradi told CNN that the buses were traveling from Badakhshan and Takhar to the capital Kabul and approximately 150 people were abducted after the Taliban ambushed the convoy. However, Afghan security forces were able to arrive promptly to the scene of the attack and rescue most of the passengers, including many women and children.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid told CNN that the reason for their ambush was that they received reports of Afghan security forces traveling among the passengers. Mojahid added that the passengers were not kidnapped but were taken to a safe place for questioning.
Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council in Kunduz, believes that the Taliban ambushed the buses because they believed that government employees and security forces were traveling home for the holidays.
At least seven Taliban insurgents have since been killed in the fighting following the abductions, reports The Guardian.
President Ashraf Ghani announced that during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha this week, there would be a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban. The ceasefire comes after months of Taliban attacks and killings, in which they have seized multiple districts and carried out large-scale bombings.
Ghani spoke of the ceasefire as he made a call for peace during celebrations of the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence.
“The ceasefire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban’s stand.”
The Afghan Taliban leader Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah responded to Ghani’s plea for a ceasefire, saying that there would be no peace until the foreign occupation of the country was lifted. He added that the country’s 17-year war could only be ended through direct talks with the U.S., reports The Guardian.
Akhunzadah reported in a message released for Eid al-Adha that the insurgents were going to continue pursuing Islamic goals, the sovereignty of Afghanistan, and ending the war, making no mention of the ceasefire.
Although the Afghan government and the Taliban agreed to a ceasefire back in June, the Taliban rejected the president’s request to extend it. Just this month, the Taliban carried out a major assault on the eastern city of Ghazni, seizing key buildings and trading fire with security forces. Over 100 members of the Afghan security forces and 35 civilians were killed, according to The Guardian.