Afghan ceasefire ends amid calls for fresh peace talks

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) – A three-day ceasefire marked by violent attacks – some claimed by the Islamic State (IS)group – ended Sunday in Afghanistan amid calls for renewed peace talks between the government and Taleban.

Taleban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the negotiating teams of the government and the Islamic Emirate, as the Taleban refer to their ousted regime, met briefly Saturday in the Middle Eastern State of Qatar.

They renewed their commitment to finding a peaceful end to the war and called for an early start to talks that have been stalled, he said.

The United States (US) has been pressing for accelerated talks as it withdraws the last of its 2,500-3,500 soldiers and NATO its remaining 7,000 allied forces. Even as the Taleban and government signed on to the ceasefire, which was declared to mark the Islamic holiday of Aidilfitri, violence continued unabated in Afghanistan.

A bombing on Friday in a mosque north of the capital killed 12 worshippers, including the imam. Another 15 people were wounded. The Taleban denied involvement and blamed the government intelligence agency. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan men bury a victim of deadly bombings at a cemetery west of Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO: AP

IS, however, claimed it blew up several electrical grid stations over the weekend. That left the capital Kabul in the dark for much of the three-day holiday that followed the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan.

In posts on its affiliated websites, IS claimed additional attacks over the last two weeks that destroyed 13 electrical grid stations in several provinces. The stations bring imported power from the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The attacks have left nine provinces including Kabul with disrupted power supplies, said Sanger Niazai, a government spokesman. There was also concern that local warlords, demanding protection money from the government to safeguard stations in areas they control, may have been behind some of the destruction.