Afghanistan: bomb attack kills three as Taliban ends partial truce

Three people have been killed and 11 injured in a motorcycle bomb attack at a football match in eastern Afghanistan, as the Taliban announced an end to a partial truce two days after signing a deal with the US.

The Taliban had agreed to a week-long “reduction of violence” as a confidence-building measure ahead of the agreement signed on Saturday, in which the US pledged that all foreign forces would leave Afghanistan within 14 months, if the Taliban sat down for talks on Afghanistan’s future with government representatives.

The agreed “reduction in violence” expired on Saturday, but US officials had expressed hope it would be prolonged. The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, committed to extending it at least until the scheduled start date for intra-Afghan talks, 10 March.

Those talks appeared to be in jeopardy on Monday, as the Kabul government said it had not agreed to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the negotiations started, an offer made by the US as part of its agreement with the insurgent.

“The Afghan government has not made any commitment to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of any potential negotiation,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Ghani, adding that the prisoner exchange “cannot be a requisite for talks”, and instead should be part of the negotiations.

A Taliban spokesman said there would be no peace talks without the release of prisoners.

Critics of the US-Taliban deal had warned it had papered over a serious differences on the prisoner issue. It stipulated that up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released by 10 March in exchange for only 1,000 government soldiers held by the insurgents. A parallel agreement the US signed with the Kabul government had only vague language about prisoner exchanges.

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