Afghan forces free 149 people taken hostage by Taliban

Hannah Rogers
August 21, 2018

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.

Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the Kunduz governor, said the bus passengers were taken to "an undisclosed location" after being forced from the vehicles on Monday morning. The Taliban has not officially responded to Ghani's offer.

It would only cover the Taliban, not other groups including Islamic State, officials said.

The Taliban also stormed two small bases in northern Baghlan province on Wednesday, killing dozens of Afghan troops and police officers.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses a news conference last month at the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul, where the government was hosting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "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", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released Sunday.

On August 19, Ghani called a "conditional" cease-fire with the Taliban to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday, just hours after insurgents said they had seized a district center in the northern province of Faryab.

Ghani said on Sunday the ceasefire would only be implemented if the Taliban respect it. The Taliban accepted that three-day cease-fire, but later rejected a call by the president to extend it.

Government rests in ex-Trump campaign chief Manafort's fraud trial
PHOTO: Paul Manafort , former campaign manager for Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in Washington, June 15, 2018. Gates was forced to admit embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and an extramarital affair.

However, a Taliban spokesman said the militants were conducting their own investigations to determine if any of the remaining hostages work for the Afghan government or security forces.

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

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.

A US delegation led by the country's top South Asia diplomat, Alice Wells, held talks on Afghan peace and confidence-building measures with the group in Doha last month. he insurgents also met recently with senior Uzbekistan officials last week to discuss Afghan peace and energy needs.

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

The buses were travelling through Kunduz to Takhar province and were packed with people returning to their home villages to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officially ended their combat mission at the end of 2014 but have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces in recent years to prevent the Taliban from advancing into major cities.

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