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Roadside Bomb Kills 11 'On Way To Shrine' In South Afghanistan

FILE: Afghan men walk amidst sandals, mostly from victims of a bomb blast, strewn at the roadside on the outskirts of Kandahar city in August 2013.

Afghan officials say a roadside bomb has killed at least 11 people, including women and children riding in a truck in the southern province of Kandahar.

One local official suggested all of those killed were from a single family.

Some 35 other civilians were wounded in the explosion, which took place in Khakrez district in the afternoon on July 15, Ahmad Sadeq Essa, a deputy army spokesman in Kandahar, said.

Essa said the wounded were transferred to a medical facility at a nearby military base, while several people in critical condition were taken to hospitals in the provincial capital.

Yousof Younosi, a provincial council member, said all the victims were members of the same family and were on their way to a shrine.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Younosi blamed Taliban militants, who often use roadside bombs against Afghan security forces and other targets.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), explosives such as roadside bombs killed 53 civilians and left 269 others injured in the first three months of this year, marking a 21-percent increase from the same period last year.

The figures do not include casualties from suicide bombings, the report said.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa

Radio Journalist Killed In Eastern Afghanistan

FILE: An Afghan man looks at a vehicle damaged by a suicide attack in Gardez.

Afghan police say a radio journalist has been killed in the eastern province of Paktia.

The body of Nader Shah Sahibzada, a newsreader for Radio Gardez, was found on July 13, a day after he disappeared.

Police chief Mohammad Hosman Jahnbaz said it was not immediately clear if the killing was linked to his work or a personal dispute.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing.

The Taliban and the extremist group Islamic State have both attacked reporters in the past.

Afghanistan was the deadliest country for journalists worldwide last year, with at least 13 of them killedin relation to their work, according to the New York- based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Based on reporting by AP and Tolonews

Taliban Attacks Hotel In Northwestern Afghanistan, Killing At Least Three

FILE: An Afghan Nation Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch during an operation in Bala Morghab district of Badghis Province.

Taliban militants have attacked a hotel in northwestern Afghanistan, killing at least three police officers.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said at least three suicide bombers stormed a hotel in Qal-e Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis Province, around 12:30 p.m. on July 13.

He said the attackers opened fire at guests inside the hotel.

Rahimi said two of the attackers were killed in ongoing clashes with security forces.

Badghis Governor Abdul Ghafoor Malakzai gave a conflicting account, telling RFE/RL that there were four attackers. He said one had been killed, one captured, and two others were still holed up in the hotel.

Malakzai said besides the three dead police officers, two others were injured.

But Abdul Latif Rustahi, the head of the Badghis State Hospital, told RFE/RL that 16 people had been admitted to hospital, including 10 members of the security forces and six civilians, including a woman and two children.

Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that the area was cordoned off by security forces.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Yusef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the incident and said suicide bombers had stormed the hotel.

With reporting by Tolo News and AFP

U.S. Service Member Killed In Afghanistan

FILE: U.S. troops boarding a Chinook helicopter in the southern province of Kandahar.

The NATO-led Resolute Support mission said a U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan on July 13.

A statement by did not provide any details surrounding the circumstances of the soldier’s death.

The statement also said the identity of the soldier would not be released until the family had been notified.

It brings the tally of U.S. service member deaths in Afghanistan to at least seven this year.

The U.S. military said two of its service members were killed in Afghanistan on June 26.

The United States began a fresh push last September to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the nearly 18-year Afghan conflict -- the longest war in U.S. history.

The U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has held eight rounds of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

He described the latest round that ended on July 9 as the "most productive" ever.

Rashid Khan Named Afghan Cricket Captain After Disappointing World Cup

FILE: Rashid Khan (L) celebrates after taking a wicket in a Twenty20 cricket match.

The Afghan Cricket Board (ACB) has appointed 20-year-old leg spinner Rashid Khan as captain across all the major formats.

The board on July 12 also said that former captain Asghar Afghan will be Khan's deputy.

Afghanistan recently returned home after competing in the World Cup in England and Wales, where it finished last in the 10-team field, losing all nine of its matches.

Khan and another senior member of the team, Mohammad Nabi, had criticized the ACB after Asghar Afghan was replaced as captain by Gulbadin Naib just weeks before the start of the World Cup.

Khan, ranked the No. 5 all-rounder in one-day internationals (ODI) and No. 1 bowler in Twenty20 rankings, had a poor World Cup – taking only six wickets in eight matches at an average of 69.33.

"We all play as one team and play only for the country. Whatever I am today, is because of this country and this team," Khan said at a news conference announcing his appointment.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

Envoy: U.S. Not 'Cutting And Running' From Afghanistan

FILE: U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

The U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, says the United States is not "cutting and running" from the war-torn country as it negotiates a peace agreement with the Taliban.

Khalilzad's prerecorded video statement, shown at a conference held at Georgetown University in Washington on July 11, came two days after the Taliban and a delegation representing Afghan society agreed at talks in Qatar on a road map for a future political settlement in what was seen as a major step toward ending Afghanistan's nearly 18-year war.

"We would like to leave a very positive legacy here," Khalilzad said. "We are not cutting and running. We're not looking for a withdrawal agreement. We're looking for a peace agreement. And we're looking for a long-term relationship and partnership with Afghanistan."

Khalilzad has held eight rounds of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, describing the latest round that ended on July 9 as the "most productive" ever.

In his video statement, Khalilzad said that "we have made substantial progress" on four key issues.

Those issues include the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, a permanent cease-fire, a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for attacks in other countries, and an inter-Afghan dialogue that leads to a political settlement.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with the Afghan government, although Khalilzad said he expected those to begin in the "near future."

Khalilzad departed for China on July 9 from where he said he would return to Washington.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

U.S. General: Premature Afghan Pullout Would Be ‘Strategic Mistake’

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley (file photo)

A premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would be "a strategic mistake," U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be the top military officer said on July 11.

General Mark Milley, currently the Army's chief of staff and nominee to head the joint chiefs of staff, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that he believed the war would eventually be brought to an end through a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.

He said that there was "some progress" in that effort.

Milley also said the U.S. should keep a "modest number" of forces in Iraq and Syria to maintain stability.

The United States and the Taliban continue negotiations on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for a commitment from the militants that Afghan territory will never again be used to launch terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.


U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has described the latest round of talks with the militant group as the "most productive" yet.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

At Least 12 Dead In Afghan Suicide Bombing Claimed By Taliban

The attack in Ghazni targeted an office of the National Directorate of Security, but many of the victims were students attending a nearby school.

Afghan officials say at least 12 people have been killed and 179 others wounded in a suicide car-bombing in a crowded area in the city of Ghazni.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the July 7 attack that comes as representatives of the militant group are taking part in a two-day all-Afghan peace conference in Doha.

The attack in Ghazni targeted an office of the National Directorate of Security, but many of the victims were students attending a nearby school, said Hasan Raza Yousafi, a provincial council member.

Afghan Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told RFE/RL that 13 people who were in critical condition had been transferred to hospitals in the capital, Kabul.

It’s the second attack in Ghazni in two days.

At least two people were killed and some 20 others were wounded in a bomb blast inside the Mohammadiya mosque in Ghazni’s Khak-e-Ghariban area on July 6.

Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for that attack.

With reporting by AP, Tolonews.com, and Reuters

Bomb Blast In Afghan Mosque Kills At Least Two People

FILE: An Afghan man surveys the damaged caused by the a suicide bomb attack in Ghazni in May.

At least two people have been killed and some 20 others wounded in a bomb blast inside a Shi’ite mosque in the Afghan city of Ghazni, officials said on July 6.

The explosion occurred late on July 5 when the Mohammadiya mosque in Ghazni’s Khak-e-Ghariban area was packed with worshipers attending evening prayers, provincial governor’s spokesman Arif Noor said.

Up to 70 people were present at the time of the explosion, according to Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, the head of Ghazni provincial council, and councilor Amanullah Kamran.

The explosive device was thought to be planted ahead of the prayers.

Ghazni has recently been the scene of heavy clashes between government forces and Taliban militants.

However, the Taliban denied involvement in the mosque attack and condemned the bombing.

The officials from the provincial council suspected the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group was behind the attack.

IS, which has a limited presence in Ghazni, is also suspected by locals of destroying a shrine known as Shams Sahib in the west of the city in May.

In recent months, Ghazni police have arrested several people on suspicion of having links to IS.

With reporting by dpa, tolonews.com

Thousands Of Internally Displaced Afghans Return Home

A man distributes free food during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jalalabad on May 7.

More than 2,000 families who had left their villages in eastern Afghanistan amid military operations and militant attacks have returned home as the security situation improved, local authorities in the province of Nangarhar say.

Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, told RFE/RL that the internally displaced people returned to their villages in Bati Kot, Kot, Momand Dara, and Shinwar districts.

“In total, some 14,000 families have expressed willingness to come back to their homes,” Khogyani said late on July 4.

He said fighting in their villages forced the residents to flee to the provincial capital, Jalalabad, and neighboring provinces.

Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group remain active in Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The IS affiliate has carried out a string of suicide bombings and attacks on government offices, police, schools, and aid groups in Jalalabad since it first emerged in Nangarhar in 2015.

Trump Describes Afghanistan As 'Lab For Terrorists'

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump has described Afghanistan as a "lab for terrorists," saying in a television interview that if the United States withdrew its military forces from the country, he would still leave a "very strong intelligence" presence behind.

"I call it the Harvard of terrorists," Trump said about Afghanistan and referring to the prestigious private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Trump made the remarks in an interview conducted during the weekend with Fox News that was broadcast on July 1.

The interview was recorded before a truck-bomb attack by Taliban fighters in Kabul on July 1 that killed at least six people and wounded 105.

It was broadcast after U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met on July 1 for a seventh round of peace talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar.

The focus of the talks has been a Taliban demand that foreign forces leave Afghanistan and a U.S. demand for a guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for attacks elsewhere.

Trump told Fox News he wanted to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.

But he said he was concerned that without a U.S. military presence there, Afghanistan could be used as a base for terrorist attacks on the United States.

He described conversations he had with U.S. military officials who warned him it would be better to fight terrorists in Afghanistan than at home.

"'Sir, I'd rather attack them over there, than attack them in our land,'" Trump said one general had told him.

"It's something you always have to think about," Trump said about the general's remarks.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Fox News, and AP

U.S. Military: Two Service Members Killed In Afghanistan

FILE: U.S. troops boarding a Chinook helicopter in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The U.S. military says two of its service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

A statement said the killings occurred on June 26, but it did not provide any details surrounding the circumstances of the deaths, which bring the tally of U.S. service member deaths in Afghanistan to at least six this year.

The death of the two service members came less than 24 hours after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a previously unannounced visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, during which he said Washington was hopeful of a peace deal with the Taliban “before September 1.”

The United States began a fresh push last September to bring the militant group to the negotiating table to end the nearly 18-year Afghan conflict -- the longest war in U.S. history.

The U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal, Zalmay Khalilzad, has held six rounds of talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha. The next round is scheduled to begin on June 29.

The talks are expected to focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee that militants will not plot attacks from Afghan soil.

"All sides agree that finalizing a U.S.-Taliban understanding on terrorism and foreign troop presence will open the door to intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiation," Pompeo said.

About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are deployed in Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Taliban Threaten Afghan Media Not To Air Government Ads Against The Militants

FILE: Taliban fighters in the central Afghan province of Ghazni.

The Taliban have issued a threat to Afghan media, saying journalists will be targeted unless news outlets stop broadcasting what they describe as government propaganda against the militants.

In a statement released on June 24, the group gave Afghan radio stations, TV channels, publications and others a week to cease airing anti-Taliban announcements paid for by the government.

The ads call on citizens to inform authorities if they see any suspicious Taliban activities.

The Taliban, which has targeted media in the past, said that Afghan news outlets that refuse to stop publishing the ads will be considered “military targets.”

Nai, an Afghan media advocacy organization, condemned the Taliban warning and called on the Afghan government to take stronger measures to ensure the safety of Afghan media.

Nai said nine Taliban-related media incidents have taken place since the beginning of the year, with one journalist killed, and one injured.

With reporting by AP and dpa

Afghan, Bulgarians Get Life Sentences Over Deaths Of 71 Migrants

Police stand behind the defendants as the verdicts are read out on June 20.

An Afghan human trafficker and three Bulgarian accomplices have received life sentences over the deaths of 71 migrants who suffocated inside a sealed refrigeration truck abandoned near an Austrian village in 2015.

The ruling on June 20 by the Hungarian appeals court came after the Afghan ring leader, 32-year-old Samsoor Lahoo, and his accomplices were found guilty of organized human trafficking and manslaughter over the August 2015 tragedy.

Initially, the four had been sentenced to 25 years in prison after the court found that the men refused to open the doors to let air in, despite pleas from the people who were suffocating inside.

But the judge presiding over the appeal, Erik Mezolaki, said on June 20 that the harsher sentence better reflected the weight of the crime.

Mezolaki said three of the traffickers would have no possibility of parole. He said the fourth would serve a minimum 30 years in prison.

The three Bulgarian accomplices were identified as Lahoo’s deputy, the truck driver, and the driver of a car that escorted the truck.

The victims were refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

They included eight women, four children, and 59 men.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Angry Afghan Lawmakers Disrupt Parliament Over Disputed Vote

FILE: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with the newly elected members of Wolesi Jirga on May 15.

KABUL -- Chaotic scenes erupted in Afghanistan's lower house of parliament on June 19 amid a weeks-long dispute over the election of a speaker.

Video footage showed angry members of the Wolesi Jirga smashing the speaker's chair and flipping his desk over to prevent businessman Mir Rahman Rahmani from taking his seat.


The violence came the day after Rahmani was elected as speaker -- a result that supporters of the other leading candidate, Kamal Nasir Osuli, refused to recognize.

Afghanistan's general elections in October 2018 were marred by security and organizational issues.

The official results were finalized in May, seven months after the poll.

The new Wolesi Jirga has since been trying to elect a speaker, but disagreements over vote-counting have led to an impasse.

With reporting by dpa

Khalilzad: U.S. Seeking 'Peace Agreement' With Taliban, Not 'Withdrawal' Deal

The U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

KABUL -- The U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban has said Washington is seeking a “comprehensive peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement” in its talks with the Taliban.

Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted the comments late on June 18 after a spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, wrote in a tweet that the United States had agreed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan.

Khalilzad has held six rounds of talks with the militant group in Qatar to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The sides have made progress, but the Taliban has so far rejected direct negotiations with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

“As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, important to remember we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement,” Khalilzad tweeted.

The U.S. envoy wrote in a separate tweet that such an agreement would include “counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a political settlement; and a comprehensive & permanent ceasefire."

“This is a framework which the Taliban accept,” he added.

Khalilzad also reiterated that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Suicide Bomber Kills Nine In Eastern Afghanistan Attack Claimed By IS

A wounded men receives treatment in a hospital after a suicide attack on the outskirts of Jalalabad on June 13.

At least nine people were killed and 12 others wounded by a suicide bomber on June 13 in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, officials said.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device near a security checkpoint, according to a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar.

"Four security personnel and five civilians have been killed and 12 more, including three security personnel, wounded," said Attaullah Khogyani.

At least one child was among those killed, while three others were among those wounded.

The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack on its news agency, Amaq.

A wave of violence across Afghanistan in recent weeks has claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and security forces.

The Taliban militant group is in negotiations with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for a peace settlement that would put an end to the almost 18-year war, but little progress has been made so far.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Dozens Of Inmates Rescued From Taliban-Run Prison

Baghlan district Governor Khanzad Mazlomiyar said on June 11 that civilians and members of the security forces were among those freed during the operation, which took place the previous day.

KABUL -- Afghan special forces have rescued 44 people from a Taliban-run prison in the northern province of Baghlan, local officials say.

Baghlan district Governor Khanzad Mazlomiyar said on June 11 that civilians and members of the security forces were among those freed during the operation, which took place the previous day.

The Taliban has yet to comment on the raid.

Last month, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that Afghan captives held by the militant group had been subjected to "ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture."

UNAMA made its assessment after interviewing 13 detainees from a group of 53 rescued in April by Afghan forces from a Taliban-run detention facility in the southern province of Uruzgan.

It quoted the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

Six Afghan Civilians Killed In Roadside Bomb Blast

FILE: Aftermath of a bomb attack targetting the police in Kandahar.

KABUL -- Six civilians have been killed in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar after a roadside bomb ripped through the vehicle they were travelling in, officials say.

Provincial police spokesman Qasim Afghan said the explosion occurred in Dand district on June 11, killing all passengers inside the vehicle.

Four children were among those killed in the blast, Afghan said.

All the victims were said to be members of one family.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Dand district Governor Haji Abdullah said the bomb was placed by the Taliban on a road frequently used by foreign and Afghan security forces.

On June 9, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it "remains troubled that civilians are being killed in high numbers" in the Afghan conflict, and urged all parties to protect civilians from harm.

A statement said that "anti-government elements deliberately and knowingly targeted civilians" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, adding that attack in Kabul alone had caused more than 100 civilian casualties.

"I condemn these deliberate attacks on civilians that signal a disturbing intent to spread fear; they delegitimize the perpetrators, depriving them of any claim to represent the people of Afghanistan," UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said.

With reporting by AFP

Afghan Peace Marchers Detained By Taliban, Supporters Say

More than two dozen activists from the People’s Peace Movement (PPM) embarked on a march of more than 150 kilometers from Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah, to Musa Qala, before they went missing.

Afghan peace protesters who went missing after marching through a Taliban-controlled area of Helmand Province have been detained by the militants, a supporter of the movement told RFE/RL on June 5.

The so-called People's Peace Movement (PPM) attracted international attention last year with its peace marches across Afghanistan and in Kabul during which they warned about the record levels of violence across the country.

PPM member Bacha Khan Muladad told RFE/RL on June 5 that there is no news about the fates of 25 of their friends who traveled to the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala, some 130 kilometers from the provincial capital of Laskar Gah four days ago in an attempt to meet with militants and plead with them to seek peace.

Almost 4,000 civilians -- including more than 900 children -- were killed in Afghanistan last year, with more than 7,000 wounded, according to the United Nations, making 2018 the deadliest year on record.

After 18 years of war, the Taliban and the United States have held several rounds of peace talks, but an agreement still appears far off, mainly because the militants refuse to hold negotiations with the Afghan government.

Afghan President Ghani Says Will Visit Pakistan On June 27

FILE: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif offering prayers at a Pakistani war memorial in November 2014.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he will visit Pakistan on June 27 in an effort to improve bilateral relations that are often hampered by mistrust and reciprocal accusations.

Ghani said on June 4 that the visit was agreed on after he met Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan last week on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia.

"I hope the visit will be positive," Ghani said in his message to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that ends the holy month of Ramadan.

Kabul has been long accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants who launch attacks inside Afghanistan, but Ghani said he was hopeful that years of mistrust can be replaced by mutual trust and cooperation toward peace.

Last week, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with the Taliban, held talks in Islamabad with senior Pakistani officials, including Khan and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Pakistan has recently offered support to U.S. efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan's almost 18-year-long war.

Khalilzad has held several rounds of talks with the militants in Qatar. The sides have made progress, but the Taliban has so far rejected direct negotiations with Kabul.

With reporting by AP

Five Killed In Bus Bombing In Kabul

The bus was carrying employees of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission.

A magnetic bomb attached to a bus carrying government employees killed at least five people and wounded 10 more on June 3 in Kabul, Afghan officials said.

The attack, the latest in a series to hit the Afghan capital over the past several days, came with the city under tight security ahead of this week's Eid al-Fitr holiday ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the bus was carrying employees of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came only hours after the Interior Ministry briefed media on security measures in large cities ahead of Eid.

Both Taliban and Islamic State militants have staged attacks in Kabul, which was hit by a wave of attacks over the past week.

Four bombings on June 2 killed at least two people and wounded 27. They came after deadly suicide bombings on May 30 and May 31.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Taliban Head Rejects Call For Holiday Truce; U.S. Envoy Heads To Region

FILE: Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada

The head of the Taliban ruled out calling a cease-fire anytime soon, as the United States envoy headed to the region for new round of efforts to end the long-running war in Afghanistan.

In his comments on June 1, Haibatullah Akhundzada also claimed that foreign forces in Afghanistan were "condemned to defeat." However, he also said Islamist fighters would continue talks with the United States.

The Taliban's fight "and resistance against the occupation is nearing the stage of success, Allah willing," Akhundzada said in a message timed for Eid, the festival that ends the holy month of Ramadan.

"No one should expect us to pour cold water on the heated battlefronts of jihad or forget our 40-year sacrifices before reaching our objectives," Akhundzada said.

Last year, the Taliban observed a three-day cease-fire during Eid. Many Afghans have hoped for another truce this year.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had proposed a nationwide cease-fire at the start of Ramadan, but the Taliban rejected the offer.

Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was heading to Afghanistan and also Germany, Belgium, Qatar, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates as part of continuing efforts to try and end the war.

The State Department said Khalilzad will continue talks with the Taliban in Doha, where the group has a political office.

The Taliban has refused to negotiate directly with the Kabul government.

In Kabul, Khalilzad was expected to meet representatives of civil society and women's rights groups.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Car Bomb Rocks Afghan Capital

Afghan police arrive at the site of a suicide car bomb in Kabul on May 31.

A fatal car-bomb blast has struck the Afghan capital, Kabul, the second deadly explosion in the city in two days.

At least seven people were reported killed or injured in the May 31 explosion in the Yakatot area of eastern Kabul.

The bomb exploded as a U.S. military convoy passed through the area.

A spokesman for the U.S. military said four U.S. service personnel were slightly injured in the incident.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi was quoted by AFP as saying four Afghan passersby had been killed and three were wounded.

Officials cautioned that the exact number of dead and wounded remains unknown.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the blast, claiming without evidence that 10 U.S. soldiers had been killed.

U.S. and NATO military forces, as well as the Afghan National Security Forces, maintain facilities in the area near the explosion.

On May 30, six people were killed when a suicide bomber struck near an Afghan Army academy a few kilometers away from the scene of the May 31 blast.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist organization claimed responsibility for the May 30 attack.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters

Afghanistan Postpones Two Local Elections

Hawa Alam Nuristani, the head of the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission.

KABUL -- Afghanistan's election authorities say they have postponed two local elections that were scheduled to be held in September.

The September presidential election was due to be held simultaneously with provincial and district council elections, as well as a previously postponed parliamentary vote in Ghazni Province.

But the head of the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC), Hawa Alam Nuristani, said on May 29 that time and budget constraints and security issues were among the reasons for the decision to delay the provincial, district, and Ghazni elections.

However, the presidential election remains scheduled for September 28.

"Holding three elections together was very difficult for us," Nuristani told reporters in Kabul.

Nursitani did not announce a new date for the postponed polls.

Meanwhile, the Election Support Group of Ambassadors, which is comprised of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), NATO, and key donor countries, said in a statement that the IEC's decision to prioritize the holding of the presidential election "is essential given the very tight timeline and the practical challenges."

The presidential election has been delayed twice due to delays in registration and technical issues.

The IEC is trying to avoid a repeat of the widespread technical and logistical problems during the October parliamentary vote.

The 2014 presidential election was marred by allegations of widespread fraud.

With reporting by dpa

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