The Taliban on Monday appeared set to reject the Afghan government’s offer of another holiday truce and took nearly 200 passengers hostage when they ambushed three buses travelling to the capital.
While Afghans were still waiting for the militants’ official response to president Ashraf Ghani’s proposal, two Taliban commanders said the leadership opposed a repeat of June’s ceasefire.
Insurgent commanders told Reuters the leadership believed any truce would only lengthen the US mission to back up Mr Ghani’s government.
"Our leadership feels that they’ll prolong their stay in Afghanistan if we announced a ceasefire now," one leader said. Another commander told The Telegraph last week that a truce was “unlikely”.
A Sunday official statement to mark the upcoming Eid ul-Adha Muslim festival of sacrifice had made no mention of a ceasefire.
Both sides laid down weapons in June to mark Eid ul-Fitr, with the three-day halt in fighting prompting unprecedented scenes of the adversaries embracing in Afghan cities.
Mr Ghani at the weekend offered another ceasefire for as long as the Taliban respected it, despite his government sufferings its bloodiest week in years at the hands of the insurgents.
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The apparent rejection came as the Taliban took around 190 captives in Kunduz as they travelled by bus to Kabul for the start of the holidays.
A Taliban spokesman said the passengers were held after a tip off they included many members of the Afghan security forces.
An Afghan military operation released most of the hostages, who included women and children, but the Taliban made off with around 20. On Monday night local elders were still trying to gain their release.
Years of thwarted peace overtures had over the summer finally seemed to be yielding hope after the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire. Taliban envoys also met senior US officials in Qatar in July after America swallowed its long term objections to direct talks with the militants.
But hopes of progress have been overshadowed by a bloody week in which the Taliban attacked the city of Ghazni in strength, prompting fighting that killed hundreds.