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Afghan Cease-Fire Ends, Calls for Talks05/16 10:04

   A three-day cease-fire marked by violent attacks -- most claimed by the 
Islamic State group -- ended Sunday in Afghanistan amid calls for renewed peace 
talks between the government and Taliban.

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A three-day cease-fire marked by violent attacks 
-- most claimed by the Islamic State group -- ended Sunday in Afghanistan amid 
calls for renewed peace talks between the government and Taliban.

   Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the negotiating teams of the 
government and the Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban refer to their ousted 
regime, met briefly Saturday in the Middle Eastern State of Qatar. They renewed 
their commitment to finding a peaceful end to the war and called for an early 
start to talks that have been stalled, he said.

   The U.S. has been pressing for accelerated talks as it withdraws the last of 
its 2,500-3,500 soldiers and NATO its remaining 7,000 allied forces.

   Even as the Taliban and government signed on to the cease-fire, which was 
declared to mark the Islamic holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, violence continued 
unabated in Afghanistan. A bombing Friday in a mosque north of the capital 
killed 12 worshippers, including the prayer leader. Another 15 people were 
wounded. The Taliban denied involvement and blamed the government intelligence 
agency.

   In a statement Sunday, the IS affiliate took responsibility for the mosque 
attack, saying its fighters planted an explosive device in "a worship place for 
disbelievers Sufis," killing the "apostate Imam," or prayer leader. The 
statement claimed 40 worshipers were wounded.

   The IS also claimed it blew up several electrical grid stations over the 
weekend. That left the capital Kabul in the dark for much of the three-day 
holiday that followed the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

   In posts on its affiliated websites, IS claimed additional attacks over the 
last two weeks that destroyed 13 electrical grid stations in several provinces. 
The stations bring imported power from the Central Asian countries of 
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

   The attacks have left nine provinces including Kabul with disrupted power 
supplies, said Sanger Niazai, a government spokesman. There was also concern 
that local warlords, demanding protection money from the government to 
safeguard stations in areas they control, may have been behind some of the 
destruction.

   At least one local warlord was arrested last year after demanding protection 
money.

   On Sunday in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, parents of 
scores of young girls killed in a brutal May 8 bombing demonstrated to demand 
the government provide them with greater security. They said 90 people were 
killed, most of them students of Syed Al-Shahda girls school, in the bombings 
outside the school. No one took responsibility but the IS affiliate has 
declared war on the country's minority Shiites.

   The seemingly unstoppable violence in Afghanistan has residents and regional 
countries fearful the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO soldiers could lead to 
further chaos. Washington said it wants its last soldier out of Afghanistan by 
Sept. 11 at the latest, but the withdrawal is progressing quickly and a Western 
official familiar with the exit said it is likely to be completed by early 
July. He spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the withdrawal are 
not being made public.

   On Saturday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed concern about the 
rapid withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces in a phone call with Pakistan Foreign 
Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

   Wang called the withdrawal hasty and warmed it would "severely" impact the 
Afghan peace process and negatively affect regional stability, He called on the 
United Nations to play a greater role.

 
 
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