Twenty-three civilians were killed on Monday in explosions in a market in southern Afghanistan, authorities said the blame was on the Taliban. “This morning at 9:30 am (5:00 GMT), the Taliban caused two explosions in the Sangin district market of Helmand province. Unfortunately, 23 civilians were killed and 15 injured, “the military command said in a statement.
The governorate of Helmand, in another press release, confirmed this assessment, but reported a different operating mode, with four shells launched on a bazaar, then the explosion of a car bomb.
Mostly affected children and youth
Questioned by AFP, a spokesman for the insurgents, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, accused the authorities and their “mercenaries” of being behind the explosions. In a statement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he learned “with deep regret” of the day’s attack, which killed “the majority of children and youth,” calling on the Taliban to end the violence.
Sangin is a fiercely contested district in recent years by the Taliban and the Afghan and coalition forces. Helmand, a vast province in southern Afghanistan where poppy cultivation is king, is largely under the control of the insurgents.
Violence has declined in Afghanistan since the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire in late May on Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. But Afghan authorities say insurgent attacks have picked up again in recent weeks, mainly against Afghan forces. On Saturday, the National Security Council (NSC) identified 21 civilians killed and 30 injured in fourteen provinces of the country the previous week.
Peace negotiations and release of prisoners
The two camps, however, seem to be approaching the first peace negotiations, when President Ghani has promised to complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners against a thousand members of the Afghan security forces held captive by the insurgents.
Authorities, who have already released nearly 4,000 Taliban prisoners, plan to expand the remaining 1,000, as stipulated in the US-Taliban agreement signed in late February in Doha, not ratified by Kabul.
The Taliban said they were ready for peace talks, but only after the release of 5,000 of their prisoners.
Created: 06.29.2020, 3:18 p.m.