The Taliban have announced a ceasefire in Afghanistan over the Eid al-Fitr holiday for the first time since 2001.
It will see a three-day halt in hostilities against the countryâs security forces, which has been greeted with relief by war-weary Afghans.
But the group warned the suspension of fighting for the first three days of Eid, the holiday that caps off Ramadan, did not extend to ‘foreign occupiersâ, who would continue to be targeted by the militants.
The unexpected move came two days after the Afghan governmentâs own surprise announcement of a week-long halt to operations against the Taliban.
It is the first time in nearly 17 years of conflict that the militants have declared a ceasefire, albeit a limited one.
‘All the mujahideen are directed to stop offensive operations against Afghan forces for the first three days of Eid-al-Fitr,â the Taliban said in a WhatsApp message to journalists.
But it added that ‘if the mujahideen are attacked we will strongly defend (ourselves)â.
The Taliban said ‘foreign occupiers are the exceptionâ to the order sent to its fighters around the country.
‘Our operations will continue against them, we will attack them wherever we see them,â it said.
Hours before Saturdayâs announcement, Taliban militants launched two separate assaults on Afghan security forces in the western province of Herat and the northern province of Kunduz, killing at least 36 soldiers and police, officials said.
Even a brief cessation of hostilities would bring welcome relief to civilians in the war-torn country, where they are paying a disproportionate price in casualties as a result of the conflict.