Taliban insurgents announced on Monday that they will observe a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan for the Muslim religious holiday of Eid, starting this week, amid weeks of increasing violence gripped the country.
“In order that the Mujahideen again provide a peaceful and secure atmosphere to our compatriots during Eid-ul-Fitr so that they may celebrate this joyous occasion, all Mujahideen … are instructed to halt all offensive operations,” Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter.
Eid will begin on Wednesday or Thursday this week depending on the sighting of the moon.
The death toll from a bomb attack outside a school in the Afghan capital Kabul has risen to 68, officials said on Sunday, with doctors struggling to care for 165 injured victims and families searching desperately for missing children.
Explosions on Saturday evening shook the neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, home to a large community of Shi’ites from the Hazara ethnic minority which has been targeted in the past by Islamic State, a Sunni militant group.
A car bomb was detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school and two more bombs exploded when students rushed out in panic.
Officials said most of those killed were schoolgirls. Some families were still searching hospitals for their children.
“The first blast was powerful and happened so close to the children that some of them could not be found,” said an Afghan official, requesting anonymity.
An eyewitness told Reuters all but seven or eight of the victims were schoolgirls going home after finishing theirstudies. On Sunday, civilians and policemen collected books and school bags strewn across a blood-stained road now busy with shoppers ahead of celebrations for Eid al-Fitr next week.
President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday blamed Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the group denied involvement and condemned any attacks on Afghan civilians.
Pope Francis called the attack as “inhuman act” in remarks to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sunday.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack and expressed his deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and to the Afghan government and people.
Families of the victims blamed the government and Western powers for failing to put an end to violence and the on going war.