Peace marchers arrive in Kabul as Taliban ends ceasefire
About 50 peace marchers arrived in Kabul on Monday after walking hundreds of miles across war-struck Afghanistan, as the Taliban resumed attacks in the country following an unprecedented ceasefire.
The demonstrators walked 430 miles double file, most of it during the holy month of Ramadan. They were seen chanting "We want peace!" and "Stop fighting!" as they arrived in the capital.
"I am calling on both sides - the government and the Taliban - for God's sake... find a way for peace and reconciliation," Mohammad Naikzad, one of the marchers, told Tolo News.
The Taliban on Sunday night refused to extend their three-day ceasefire despite pressure from ordinary Afghans, the government and the international community.
They attacked security forces in numerous districts of eastern and southern Afghanistan, though no details on casualties have been confirmed.
Defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh told AFP there had been "very few" reports of fighting since the government on Saturday extended its own ceasefire with the Taliban for another 10 days.
"We hope the Taliban accept the Afghan nation's call for peace," Radmanesh added.
The peace march was the first of its kind in Afghanistan and sprang up from a sit-in protest and hunger strike in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand which is a Taliban stronghold.
The sit-in and hunger strike were launched after a car bomb attack struck the city on 23 March. The peace marchers were initially ridiculed for their plan to walk to Kabul, but they now enjoy strong public support.
The marchers are calling for an extended ceasefire, peace talks and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan - which is also a key demand of the Taliban.
The ceasefire, which started on Friday and lasted for the first three days of Eid, was struck between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. The group said it would continue attacking US-led NATO troops.
The ceasefire sparked extraordinary scenes of Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians happily celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday together.
Agencies contributed to this report.