At least 25 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in eastern as elsewhere across the country jubilant scenes marked the first ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government in 17 years.
, which is not part of the ceasefire, claimed the attack in Nangarhar province, near the city of Jalalabad.
Civilians, members and Afghan soldiers were killed as they mingled together in unprecedented fashion on the second day of the festival of Eid, which marks the conclusion of Ramadan.
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, announced on Saturday that the government would extend its week-long ceasefire, which had been due to end on Tuesday, indefinitely.
In a rare televised address, Ghani thanked the Taliban for observing the truce and asked the group to extend its own three-day Eid ceasefire, which it after the government’s in a promising sign of reciprocity. For many Afghans it has been first glimpse of peace in their lifetime.
Taliban leaders declare Eid ceasefire with Afghan forces
Unarmed Taliban fighters waving flags entered Kabul and other major cities after the government said it would allow them to visit their families over the holiday.
Militants hugged and posed for photographs with soldiers in uniform. Some handed out red roses. In Kabul, others sought directions from locals to the capital’s most famous ice-cream parlour.
There were also rare scenes of impromptu diplomacy as the interior minister, Wais Barmak, met Taliban members on the outskirts of the capital and district governors broke bread with their Taliban “shadow” counterparts over lunch.
“I’m 40 years old and this is the best Eid I’ve had in my entire life,” one Kandahar resident said on a BBC radio phone-in. “I can see Taliban walking around among ordinary people.”
Taliban members were similarly moved. “Tears were in our eyes and we could not speak for weeping,” Baz Muhammad, a 26-year-old commander in the Haqqani branch of the Taliban, said. “We were warmly welcomed in by everyone ... I felt for the first time in the eight years of my jihadist life that I am at least safe.”
Others said the ceasefire had shifted their perception of peace. “I offered an Afghan soldier breakfast with me,” said Mullah Hanif Shah, a 30-year-old subcommander in Zabul province. “This was a dramatic development. I hope now that my leader and president Ghani make peace.”
Ghani said in his televised speech that he was ready to discuss the removal of foreign forces, which were excluded from the Taliban’s ceasefire and remain a key stumbling block to peace in the eyes of many fighters.
A senior member of the Taliban’s council said the group would meet on Sunday to discuss Ghani’s offer and that the ceasefire could be extended if a date was set for the withdrawal of US forces.
The UN secretary general’s special representative for , Tadamichi Yamamoto, wrote in the Washington Post: “I truly believe the outlines for a peace deal are now discernible through the haze and dust of war.”
The ceasefire followed large peace rallies around the country and came as 80 citizens continued a 600km-long peace march from Lashkar Gah to Kabul.
Barnett R Rubin, an Afghanistan at the Center on International cCooperation, said the ceasefire would make it easier for high-level talks to occur as Taliban fighters had strictly obeyed the command of their leaders.
“They are all involved and they all have ownership ... It hasn’t been limited to a ceasefire. There has been mass fraternisation,” he said.