Taliban: 1,000 prisoners released

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the announcement by the Afghanistan government and the Taliban of a ceasefire to enable the Afghan people to celebrate Eid al-Adha in peace.

Attention is focused on whether the Afghan government will release more prisoners to help the ceasefire talks make headway.

According to Afghan news outlet Tolo, Yasin Khan, the governor of the southern province of Helman, has pointed to an increasing Al Qaeda footprint in the district along the Durand Line with Pakistan as well as the border pockets between Afghanistan and Iran.

The bombing came hours before a three-day ceasefire was to begin in the country for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, officials said.

There were no reports of violence since the ceasefire began, but a auto bomb in Logar province killed at least 17 people including security forces on Thursday night, just hours before the ceasefire started.

The Taliban have denied responsibility for the attack, while the Islamic State has not yet commented.

"The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban of a ceasefire to enable the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday in peace", said a statement issued by the United Nations on Thursday.

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However, the 500 inmates are not on the original list of 5,000 demanded by the Taliban. Authorities have released 4,600 of those prisoners but are hesitating over the final 400, deeming them too unsafe.

Afghan men leave a mosque after prayers during Eid al-Fitr. In a speech, Mr. Ghani said another 500 prisoners will be released in a bid to "accelerate the peace talks".

The Taliban and Afghan government have agreed on a three-day ceasefire starting Friday, the first day of Eid.

Late Thursday, the Taliban claimed they had completed the release of all 1,000 government prisoners.

The halt in fighting is slated to last for the duration of Id and is only the third official truce in almost 19 years of war.

There are hopes of a permanent truce but peace talks have been delayed due to prisoner exchanges.

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