Washington: The United States has urged the Taliban and the Afghan government to engage seriously in the ongoing peace process to prevent Islamic State militants from further aggravating an already tense situation in the war-ravaged country.
“We are still looking into what or who is responsible, but I would note that ISIS has been responsible for similar attacks on Shia communities in Kabul in the past,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in Washington.
Saturday’s school attack in the Afghan capital that killed at least 80 people, most of them girl students, has earned strong condemnation from across the globe.
The president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, called the blast “an abhorrent and cowardly attack” while UN Secretary General António Guterres emphasised that “those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable”. But the US went beyond a formal condemnation by showing interest in the Taliban’s denial of involvement and by urging them to work with the Afghan government to bring peace to a country that has been involved in one war after another for almost half a century.
“We note the Taliban has denied involvement in the attack, and we welcome their announcement of a three-day ceasefire over the upcoming Eid holiday,” Price said. “We call on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to engage seriously in the ongoing peace process to ensure the Afghan people enjoy a future free of terrorism and of senseless violence.”
While condemning those responsible for “targeting innocent Afghan girls at their school,” the US official pointed out that most of the girls were in their teens and were “killed for nothing more than pursuing an education and a brighter future”.
On Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that the group was not involved in the attack and condemned the “cruel and senseless act of violence”.
Although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban, the US media pointed out that the explosions occurred in a heavily Shia neighbourhood that has faced brutal attacks by Islamic State militants over the years. On Monday, the Taliban also announced a three-day Eid ceasefire, which would come into effect later this week.
“We do welcome this announcement and any move that allows the Afghan people a reprieve from violence,” Price said. “We urge the Taliban to extend this ceasefire and order a significant reduction in violence.”