Taliban to resume attacks against Kabul as violence deal ends

The organisation says its forces will not attack foreign soldiers

The Taliban said on Monday they were resuming offensive operations against Afghan security forces, ending the week-long partial truce that preceded the signing of a deal between the insurgents and the United States.

"The reduction in violence ... has ended now and our operations will continue as normal," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

"As per the [US-Taliban] agreement, our mujaheddin will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces."

For seven days before the signing ceremony on Saturday, the Taliban agreed to a reduction in violence. The partial truce was meant to demonstrate their willingness to participate as well as the ability to control their factions. As that temporary deal has now lapsed, the Taliban has returned to hostile operations against the Afghan government.

The Taliban's announcement was swiftly followed by simultaneous assaults against Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces' (ANDSF) positions in at least five locations across the country including Bala Murghab in Badghis Province.

In eastern Afghanistan's Khost Province three people were killed and 11 others injured in a bomb attack at a football match.

"A motorcycle rigged with a bomb exploded during a football match," said Sayed Ahmad Babazai, the eastern province's police chief, giving details of the casualties.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Mujahid said on Monday the Taliban would not participate in intra-Afghan talks until roughly 5,000 of its prisoners are released.

"If our 5,000 prisoners - 100 or 200 more or less does not matter - do not get released there will be no intra-Afghan talks," he told Reuters by phone.

The pact signed between the United States and the Taliban in Doha on Saturday detailed that up to 5,000 jailed Taliban militants would be released by March 10. However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday rejected the demand.

Mr Ghani said the Afghan government had made no commitment to free the 5,000 prisoners, explaining at a Kabul press conference the Taliban's demand for their release could not be a precondition to direct talks.

Senior Afghan officials briefed on Monday if the Taliban continued to insist on a prisoner exchange as a condition then the scheduled intra-Afghan talks, due to take place in Norway by or on March 10, would not go ahead. They did not rule out the possibility a swap could be discussed during negotiations.

Afghanistan's Chief Executive Office has announced it has finalised a list of negotiators to participate in peace talks with the Taliban. Six representatives from the Kabul Government have reportedly travelled to Doha to begin talks with the Taliban.

The accord between the United States and the Taliban signed on Saturday committed both sides to work towards the swift of release combat and political prisoners as a confidence-building measure.

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