Afghan officials: Taliban take at least 100 people hostage

Dr Mohammad Faisal

Dr Mohammad Faisal

He added: "So far, there is no news on the fate of the passengers, but tribal elders and local officials are trying to negotiate with the Taliban".

This month the Taliban fought an intense battle with Afghan forces to control the strategically important city of Ghazni.

Rahimi said the rescue operation had killed at least seven Taliban fighters before the militants fled the scene.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to the offer but in a message from its leader published over the weekend to mark the upcoming Islamic holiday of Eidul Azha the group continued to push for direct talks with the US.

He said his forces had not kidnapped the passengers but had taken them to a safe place near the highway to question them and will free them after the investigations are finished.

KABUL-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday proposed a conditional three-month cease-fire in the government's USA -backed war against the Taliban, seeking to regain political momentum following a string of devastating battlefield losses to security forces at the hands of the insurgents.

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

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the Kunduz provincial council, said he thinks the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.

Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province, said the kidnapping happened when three buses were travelling through Kunduz from Takhar province, on their way to the capital, Kabul.

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A senior official in Ghani's office said the "conditional" ceasefire would run for three months. "The ceasefire will be effective from Monday and conclude on Thursday", said the Taliban shura member on condition of anonymity.

Faryab's Bulcheragh district fell to the Taliban on Saturday night and the whereabout of 100 Afghan security forces is still not clear, a source confirmed on Sunday.

"The United States and our worldwide partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate".

An earlier, three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday in June - the first formal, nationwide ceasefire in the country since the 2001 United States invasion - saw thousands of insurgents pour into cities across Afghanistan, eating ice cream and posing for selfies with security forces.

The announcement came days after Taliban militants captured a military base in the same region.

The Taliban have launched several attacks in recent weeks.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. The heavy casualties underscore the challenges the government in Kabul faces since the USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officially ended their combat mission at the end of 2014.

The June ceasefire - the first such truce in the country since the 2001 United States invasion - spurred hopes that a new path was opening for possible peace talks in the country to the end the almost 17-year-old war.

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