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At Least 11 Afghan Civilians Killed In Attacks On First Of Three-Day Cease-Fire

A member of the Afghan security forces stands guard at the Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul as people offer prayers for Eid al-Fitr on May 13.

Four separate bomb attacks have killed at least 11 civilians and wounded 13 others just hours after a three-day cease-fire took effect as Afghanistan celebrates the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Fighting has been soaring ahead of a planned pullout of remaining U.S. and other international forces by September 11, but the Taliban and Afghan government earlier this week declared a nationwide cease-fire during the Eid holiday.

Roadside bombs accounted for the bulk of the civilian casualties on May 13, despite no reports of direct fighting between Taliban militants and government forces as they observe the holiday cease-fire.

Five civilians, including a woman and children, were killed in a roadside bomb explosion in the Panjwai district of the southern province of Kandahar, said provincial police spokesman Jamal Naser Barekzai.

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Two children were killed and three adults wounded in a separate roadside bomb explosion that struck a taxi in the Maiwand district of the same province, Barekzai added.

In the central province of Ghazni, two civilians were also killed by a roadside bomb, officials said.

In the northern province of Kunduz, the explosion of a sticky bomb attached to a vehicle killed two civilians and wounded 10 others, according to Enhamuddin Rahmani, a spokesman for the province's police chief.

Afghan security forces had mounted an operation to retake a Taliban-held district outside the capital, Kabul, in the neighboring province of Wardak on May 12 but it was halted to observe the cease-fire.

A day earlier, Taliban fighters had killed or captured some government soldiers and forced others to retreat after storming the district of Nerkh, less than an hour's drive from Kabul.

On May 13, Afghan men, women, and children around the country flocked to mosques or gathered in open grounds to offer morning prayers at the start of Eid festivities that will last until May 15.

Authorities deployed security personnel to prominent mosques in the capital, Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani used his annual Eid address to urge the Taliban to agree to a permanent cease-fire now that U.S. and international troops are leaving.

"We don't want you to surrender, but we want you to accept a political solution. War is not a solution," he said.

Intra-Afghan peace efforts have stalled since the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban launched talks in Qatar in September 2020, despite international efforts to jump-start the negotiations.

The EU diplomatic mission and UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called for a lasting peace.

During the days before the cease-fire, intense fighting was reported in several provinces, with the Taliban capturing a district some 40 kilometers from Kabul late on May 11.

Around 10,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers were still in the country at the beginning of the month, according to official figures.

The U.S. military's Central Command, or Centcom, on May 11 estimated that it had completed up to 12 percent of the withdrawal process.

U.S. generals and other officials have expressed concerns that the pullout might lead to the collapse of the Afghan government in the absence of progress on peace talks with the Taliban.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and
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