A suicide bomber killed at least 26 people at a gathering of Taliban and Afghan armed forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Saturday, an official said, as soldiers and militants celebrated an unprecedented Eid ceasefire.
The blast in the town of Ghazi Aminullah Khan wounded at least 54 others ─ including Taliban, security forces and civilians ─ who were marking the suspension of fighting in Nangarhar’s Rodat district, according to Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, Tolo News reported.
Dozens of unarmed Taliban militants had earlier entered the Afghan capital and other cities to celebrate Eid. Afghan security forces and civilians hugged and took selfies with each other across the country, in an outpouring of emotion over the ceasefire.
“A suicide bomber detonated among people, security forces and Taliban who were celebrating the ceasefire,” provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.
The militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. The group’s Amaq news agency said the target was “a gathering of Afghan forces” but gave no details. The Taliban had already denied involvement.
The Taliban had announced a ceasefire for the first three days of Eid, which started on Friday, promising not to attack Afghan security forces for the first time since the 2001 US invasion. They said they would continue attacking US-led Nato troops.
That came after Ghani announced that police and troops would cease operations against the Taliban for eight days, starting last Tuesday — though he warned that operations against other militants, including IS, would continue.
The attack came as Ghani announced an extension of the government’s week-long ceasefire with the militant group after both sides agreed to halt hostilities for Eid.
Ghani made his announcement in a rare televised address to the nation, in which he also asked the Taliban to extend their three-day ceasefire which is due to end on Sunday, and to begin peace talks.
“I order the security forces to remain on their defensive positions,” Ghani said, adding details of the extension would be released later.
It was not clear if Ghani knew about the bomb in the east when he made his address.