Afghan Taliban kidnap dozens of bus passengers near Kunduz

Glen Norman
August 21, 2018

More than 100 people have been taken hostage after Taliban fighters ambushed a convoy of buses in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province.

Two Taliban commanders, privy of the development, have told Reuters that their supreme leader rejected President Ashraf Ghani's Sunday offer of a three-month ceasefire, beginning with this week's Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.

The identities of the captives have not been made public, but Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council, said the insurgents likely targeted the three buses to try to abduct civil servants or members of the security forces.

Ayubi believes the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.

The buses, carrying passengers from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces, were on their way to the capital, Kabul, according to Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief of the Takhar province.

Some Afghans worry that the Taliban could take advantage of another cease-fire, considering the strength they've shown recently.

Fighting has been mounting in the Taliban's insurgency against the government in Kabul and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation coalition forces, launched after the Islamist group was ousted from power in a US -led military intervention in 2001.

The battle for the city killed at least 100 security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials.

Akhundzada, thought to be hiding in neighboring Pakistan, had previously said the militants would not negotiate with the Afghan government, which he labelled a "puppet".

Ghani also said the conditional ceasefire would be for three months and that the Afghan government will respect it as long as the Taliban also call a truce.

The Taliban have yet to respond formally to the latest truce offer.

The truce announcement came a day after clashes erupted in the northern province of Faryab, an interior ministry official said.

"The United States and our worldwide partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate".

On Saturday, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah, said that there will be no peace in the country as long as the "foreign occupation" continues.

"We remain ready to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban", Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement Sunday.

In the meantime, the families of those captured Monday said they had little information about their fate.

Officials were going to the scene to investigate and to try to recover the passengers.

Mir Ahmed, who lives near where the attack took place, said the Taliban exercise effective control over the district.

"The order was issued for operations, today and last night there were operations in at least four or five provinces", said Chakhansuri.

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