Security forces have freed 149 passengers, including women and children, after Taliban fighters ambushed three buses and abducted more than 150 people in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province.
Three buses, carrying passengers from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces, were on their way to Kabul when they were captured in Khan Abad district on Monday, according to Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief of the Takhar province.
A Taliban spokesperson confirmed that the group seized ‘three buses packed with passengers’ before adding that civilian passengers will be released while security forces personnel will be kept in custody.
“Security forces conducted a rescue operation and managed to release 149 passengers,” a spokesperson for the Kunduz governor, Esmatullah Muradi, told Al Jazeera, adding that 21 people were still held hostage by the armed group.
“The passengers were taken hostage in the morning when they were on their way to the capital Kabul from Takhar province,” Muradi said earlier.
The ambush comes a day after Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s announced a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban during Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holy festival.
The Taliban did not respond to requests for comment after the announcement but released a statement saying they planned to free “hundreds of prisoners” during Eid.
The government previously announced a ceasefire with the Taliban during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June this year.
The Taliban accepted the three-day truce but rejected calls by Ghani to extend it.
the fresh ceasefire announcement on Sunday followed a week of fighting across Afghanistan which saw the Taliban launch a massive assault on the provincial capital Ghazni, located two hours from Kabul.
At least 150 soldiers and 95 civilians were killed in a five-day siege, which eased last week when Afghan soldiers backed by US forces pushed back the group’s heavily armed fighters.