15 dead in Afghanistan as Taliban announces Eid ceasefire (Ld)

At least 15 people, mainly civilians, were killed in Afghanistan on Monday, the same day Taliban militants announced a nationwide three-day ceasefire for the upcoming Eid-al0Fitr holidays.

The holidays are due to start either on Wednesday or Thursday depending on the sighting of the new moon, but the latest violence, which officials blamed on the Taliban, cast a pall over the news of any short-lived reduction in violence, reports dpa news agency.

All Taliban fighters are instructed to cease offensive operations across the country from the first to the third day of Eid-al Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, a Taliban statement published late Sunday read.

Taliban fighters are prohibited from visiting government-controlled areas or giving “enemy personnel” access to areas controlled by the Islamists.

A response from the government in Kabul is still pending.

The Taliban has declared ceasefires to mark the end of Ramadan in the past.

There have been growing concerns about the security situation in Afghanistan since May 1, the date that international troops officially began their withdrawal.

The process is due to be completed by September 11 at the latest.

Highlighting the dangers, at least 11 civilians were killed after a roadside bomb hit a passenger bus in Zabul province, in the south, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

Another 28 passengers were wounded in the explosion, which happened around midnight.

Meanwhile, in Parwan province, two people were killed in an explosion that targeted a minibus with 25 passengers onboard, according to a provincial police spokesperson and a local politician.

Nearly a dozen people were wounded in the bombing.

In Farah province, militants detonated an explosive-packed armoured vehicle near an army checkpoint just a few km away from the provincial city centre, several officials confirmed.

There were conflicting reports about the casualty figures.

Provincial governor Taj Mohammad Jahid told dpa that two soldiers were killed and five others were wounded in a checkpoint.

However, provincial councillor Shah Mahmoud Naimi said that the bodies of six soldiers were found under the rubble and four others have been taken captive, with the fate of the remaining force members unclear.

Government officials have blamed the Taliban for the incidents.