Afghan Officials: Taliban Take At Least 100 People Hostage


Taliban insurgents are holding more than 20 bus passengers in Afghanistan's northern province of Kunduz, provincial spokesman Ismatullah Muradi told CNN. He said the Taliban had left behind the 149 freed hostages because the militants were unable to transport all of the group due to the rescue operation.

This comes despite President Ashraf Ghani's call for a ceasefire with the Taliban during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The Taliban have sent delegations to Uzbekistan and Indonesia in recent weeks, raising their diplomatic profile even while carrying out deadly attacks.

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.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief in neighboring Takhar province, says the passengers were fram Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and were traveling to the capital, Kabul.

The United States on Sunday welcomed the announcement by Kabul of a provisional ceasefire with the Taliban, saying the plan "responds to the clear and continued call of the Afghan people".

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It spurred hopes that a new path was opening for possible peace talks in the country to the end the almost 17-year-old war, but violence has surged in the weeks since.

In a message released on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, and without mentioning any cease-fire, Akhunzadah said the insurgents remain committed to "Islamic goals", the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war. He said he hoped it could even last until November 20, which will mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammed.

In June, the Taliban observed a government ceasefire over the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, leading to unprecedented scenes of government soldiers and militants embracing on front lines, and raising hopes for talks.

Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kabul. The battle for the city killed at least 100 security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials.

A USA 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. Since then, American forces, now in a training and advising role, have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces.