The Taliban and Afghan government have both declared a cease-fire during the three-day religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr later this week as Afghanistan remains in the grip of intense violence and the United States is withdrawing its remaining troops from the war-torn country.
The Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan will begin on May 12 or 13, depending on the sighting of the new moon.
Taliban fighters were instructed to “halt all offensive operations against the enemy countrywide from the first until the third day of Eid al-Fitr" to allow for a “peaceful and secure atmosphere” so that people can celebrate the holiday, the insurgent group said in a statement on May 10.
"But if the enemy conducts any assault or attack against you during these days, stand ready to robustly protect and defend yourselves and your territory," it added.
Later in the day, President Ashraf Ghani's office said he had instructed all Afghan forces to observe the cease-fire, while also urging the Taliban to "respond to the legitimate demand of the people for a permanent cease-fire and return to the negotiating table, so that our people can achieve their fundamental right which is living in a just and lasting peace.”
The Taliban and Afghan government have declared similar cease-fires in the past to mark Islamic holidays.
Hours after the pending cease-fire was announced by the Taliban, the Interior Ministry said at least 11 civilians were killed and 28 more wounded overnight when a roadside bomb hit a passenger bus in Zabul Province. Women and children were among the casualties.
The blast occurred as the bus was traveling from Kabul to Kandahar.
In Parwan Province, north of the capital, two people were reported killed and at least nine wounded when an explosion hit a minibus early on May 10.
Government officials blamed the Taliban for the blasts.
The Afghan government has also blamed the group for bombing a girls’ school in Kabul on May 8 that killed at least 50 people and wounded another 100. Most of those killed were young female students at the Sayed Al-Shuhada School, located in the largely Shi'ite Hazara neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi.
The militant group denied involvement and condemned the attack, the deadliest in the city for months.
Afghan officials have long accused the Taliban of trying to cover its tracks by allowing the much smaller Islamic State (IS) extremist group to claim responsibility for some militant attacks.
IS and Taliban militants have been blamed for a number of attacks that have killed hundreds of Hazara in Dasht-e Barchi in recent years.
Fighting has been soaring across the country amid the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. and international forces from Afghanistan by September 11.
The pullout will be a major test for Afghan security forces, with U.S. generals and other officials expressing concerns in recent weeks that it might lead to the collapse of the Afghan government in the absence of progress on stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
Intra-Afghan peace efforts have stalled since the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban began talks in Qatar last year.