A three-day pause in hostilities in Afghanistan has been broken with two devastating suicide bombing attacks.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on June 18, 2018

On Sunday 17 June 2018 a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people and wounded around 50 in an attack near the Nangarhar governor’s compound at Jalalabad.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack but it is thought to be the work of ISIS who have gained a foothold in the province.

The previous day, another suicide bombing in the province killed 36 people including both Taliban commanders and civilians. ISIS, who did not observe the ceasefire, claimed responsibility for that attack.

The people killed in the attack had been at a meeting to celebrate the ceasefire.

The Afghan Taliban had previously announced the temporary truce in honour of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday for the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Saturday, Ashraf Ghani made a televised address to announce the government would extend the ceasefire indefinitely. He also thanked the Taliban for observing the truce.

During the ceasefire, people took to the streets to celebrate and members of the military took selfies with civilians and even hugged Taliban fighters.

One 40-year-old resident of Kandahar phoned the BBC to say it was the best Eid he had ever had. “I can see Taliban walking around among ordinary people,” he marvelled.

It was the first formal nationwide ceasefire since 2001 when US military forces moved into the war-torn nation and ousted the Taliban from power.

Mohammad Karim Khalili, Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government body tasked with negotiating to end the conflict, said he had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Taliban to extend the ceasefire.

“We hope that the extension of the ceasefire will be announced by the leadership of the Taliban,” he told a press conference in Kabul.

The Taliban denied these talks had ever taken place.

“All the baseless propaganda and attempts to confuse public opinion by the opposition in this regard only serves to complicate the ongoing crisis and negatively impacts for peace,” the group said.

The Taliban insurgents repeated their demands that US military forces leave Afghanistan.

The Taliban has rigidly stuck to its position that it will only negotiate with the US directly, not the US-supported government in place in Afghanistan. It has grown in influence in recent years and has carried out a series of attacks on the Afghan government.

In February 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani first raised the possibility of a ceasefire with the Taliban and said the government was open to recognising the Taliban as a political party in an agreement.

Now peace looks as far away as ever as the nation reels from these latest attacks.

Mohammed Islam, a 22-year-old Taliban fighter, painted a poignant picture of Afghanistan during the rare ceasefire.

“I had the kebabs, I had the sheer yakh (cold milk) ice cream, I hugged the police, I hugged the army ones – all of it was pleasant.

“The people were very happy with the peace. Nothing comes of fighting. It’s all loss.”