Afghan forces free 149 hostages taken by Taliban in ambush

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KABUL: The Taliban rejected on Monday an Afghan government offer of a ceasefire and they would persist with their attacks, two militant commanders said, while insurgents ambushed three buses and almost 200 passengers travelling for a holiday.

A senior official in Ghani's office said the conditional ceasefire would run for three months, until the Prophet Mohammed's birthday which Afghanistan celebrate on Nov.21.

Ayubi believes the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.

He said his forces had not kidnapped the passengers but had taken them to a safe place near the highway to question them and will free them after the investigations are finished.

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The buses were stopped in the province's Khan Abad district, an area under Taliban control - prompting a battle against government forces deployed in a rescue operation.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, the police chief in neighbouring Takhar province, said the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and were traveling to the capital, Kabul.

On Friday, Taliban leaders directed the Islamist movement's military commanders and shadow governors to observe a four-day truce, sources close to the Taliban said.

The Taliban has not officially responded to Ghani's offer.

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In his call on Sunday for the truce, Ghani said, "The cease-fire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban's stand". Some analysts said it might be perceived as an act of desperation by the government following mounting battlefield pressure from insurgents.

But one of the Taliban commanders said the June ceasefire had only helped USA forces, who the Taliban are trying to drive out of the country, and Taliban leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada rejected the new offer on the grounds it would only help the US -led mission.

There has been a resurgence of the Taliban in recent years, with the insurgents seizing entire districts across Afghanistan and regularly carrying out large-scale bombings and attacks that have killed scores of people.

The government had previously announced a ceasefire with the Taliban during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June. The Taliban has reasserted itself this month with a wave of deadly attacks that have killed hundreds, providing it with additional leverage ahead of nascent peace talks.

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