Afghanistan violence continues despite three-day Eid ceasefire
Violence has escalated since May 1, when the US began formally withdrawing its troops in line with a plan to pull out its last 2,500 soldiers from the violence-wracked country by Sept. 11. While the Taliban have refrained from targeting American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have soared.
The militant group on Tuesday stormed the Nerkh district, around 40 kilometres from Kabul, killing and capturing some government soldiers and seizing the police headquarters and an army base.
"Security and defence forces made a tactical retreat from the police headquarters of Nerkh district," Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told AFP.
Afghan security forces on Wednesday mounted an operation to retake the district, located in neighbouring Wardak province and home to more than 60,000 people. The offensive was halted on Thursday to observe the ceasefire.
Taliban militants are active in parts of the southern Kandahar province, the former Taliban stronghold and the scene of intensive fighting in recent weeks.
The Wardak province connects Kabul to the Kandahar province through a main highway, of strategic importance to the group.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed solidarity with Afghans and Palestinians as violence marks the celebration of Eid el-Fitr, a holiday that rounds off the month of Ramadan during which families and communities come together.
The recent Taliban activity around urban centres spurred fears that the militants are waiting for the Americans to withdraw before launching an all-out assault.
The latest attacks come on the heels of a series of blasts outside a school in Dash-e-Barchi, a west Kabul suburb populated mostly by Hazara Shias, on Saturday. More than 50 people, mostly girl students, were killed and over 100 were wounded.
The government blamed the Taliban for the carnage, but the insurgents denied responsibility and issued a statement saying the nation needed to "safeguard and look after educational centres and institutions".
President Ashraf Ghani has insisted that his troops are fully capable of pushing back against the insurgents. He has also suggested that once the US leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will have no reason to fight.
"Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over," AFP reported him saying in a speech earlier this month.