(Update 1: updates with explosions, casualties)
By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, May 13 (EFE).- Afghanistan began its Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations on Thursday after the government and the Taliban declared a three-day ceasefire for the most important festival for Muslims.
People from all walks of life, for the first time in months, woke up to a peaceful morning, dressed up in new clothes and congregated at mosques across the country to offer prayers on Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
People also visited the houses of friends and relatives to celebrate in the customary atmosphere of togetherness and brotherhood.
“After the announcement of the ceasefire (earlier this week), the government ordered the security forces to start its implementation. The ceasefire has been in place since midnight,” Rahmatullah Andar, spokesperson of the National Security Council, told EFE.
However, late on Thursday reports came in of 10 civilians being killed and 13 injured in three separate explosions in the country
At least two children were killed and three civilians injured when a roadside bomb exploded under a taxi in the Panjwai district of the southern Kandahar province, while an IED blast in a different part of the province killed five civilians, including women and children.
Separately, another IED explosion in Kunduz city, capital of the eponymous northern province, killed at least 2 children while 10 other civilians were killed.
A teacher was killed in another explosion in the southern Ghazni province.
However, it is not clear whether these bombs were planted during the ceasefire or caused by IEDs and mines routinely placed by militants on major roads in conflict-hit areas, which can set off even after days upon contact.
The announcement of the brief ceasefire comes amid a significant increase in armed violence in the country in the last two weeks, following the start of the final phase of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan on May 1, a process which is expected to be completed by early September.
During the last two weeks, dozens of civilians, an unknown number of security forces and more than 1,300 Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes, while nearly 2,000 families have been forced to flee their homes.
At least two districts and tens of security check posts of the Afghan forces fell to the Taliban in various parts of the country, particularly in the southwestern Helmand province.
The insurgents too confirmed the implementation of the Eid ceasefire following an announcement by their leadership on Monday to stop fighting for three days in areas under their influence.
“We can say with confidence, we haven’t had any security incident since last midnight and the ceasefire is implemented and is in place in areas of our control,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to EFE.
The eastern province of Laghman, the scene of heavy clashes in recent weeks, saw large crowds, including militants and security forces, come together to offer Eid prayers.
“Eid prayers were held in a fully peaceful environment in the (provincial) capital Mehtarlam city and five districts of the province in which, besides ordinary people, officials also attended the prayers,” Laghman governor’s spokesperson Asadullah Dawlatzai told EFE.
He added that Laghman Governor Rahmatullah Yarmal urged the Taliban Thursday for a local ceasefire or extension of the current ceasefire beyond the Eid festivities.
“I welcome the three days ceasefire, but I call on the Taliban to change this temporary ceasefire to a permanent one,” the governor’s office said in a statement.