Taliban agrees to ‘Raya’ ceasefire

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KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban until June 20, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting season, but excluded all other militant groups, such as Islamic State.

The decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics from across the country this week who declared a fatwa on Taliban attacks. A suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in Kabul.

The clerics recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation.

“With the ceasefire announcement we epitomize the strength of the Afghan government and the will of the people for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.”

The Eid al-Fitr holiday marks the end of Ramadan next week.

Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war.

Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge swaths of the country and, with foreign troop levels at about 15,600 compared with 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright military victory.

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