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Afghanistan peace marchers reach Kabul

June 18, 2018

Dozens of war-weary Afghans took part in the near 700-kilometer trek across the country. The peaceful protest was launched after a deadly car bombing in Helmand in March and ended amid fresh Taliban attacks.

Afghanistan peace marchers arrive in Kabul
Image: Reuters/M. Ismail

The protesters, who mainly walked during the fasting month of Ramadan, arrived exhausted and weary in the Afghan capital Kabul, after walking nearly 700 kilometers (430 miles) across the country, calling "we want peace!" and "stop fighting!"

"We want our people to stay united for peace and get rid of this misery for the next generation," Mohammad Naikzad, one of the marchers, told Afghanistan's Tolo News network.

"I am calling on both sides – the government and the Taliban – for God's sake... find a way for peace and reconciliation," he said.

Another participant, Iqbal Khayber, told the Reuters news agency that they met "people in areas controlled by the Taliban and in areas under government control" and that "everyone is really tired of war."

Read more: UNICEF: Nearly half of children in Afghanistan do not go to school

The marchers, varying in numbers from day to day, started walking after a car bomb attack in Helmand on March 23 that killed at least 14 people. It started with a sit-in protest and hunger strike in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province.

Afghanistan: protesters in Ghazni province
Afghan activists seen during the march, here on June 8 in Ghazni provinceImage: AFP/Z. Hashimi

Fresh Taliban attacks

Their arrival coincides with the end of a three-day ceasefire between the government and the extremist Taliban, which rules large parts of the country.  The Taliban has refused to extend the ceasefire.

The first formal, nationwide ceasefire since the 2001 US-led invasion had led to Taliban fighters, security forces and ordinary Afghans celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan, together.

Read more: Will Iran try to tie down the US in Afghanistan?

On Monday, however, there were reports of fresh attacks in various parts of the country.

Afghanistan has effectively been at war since being invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979. Since the Taliban's official ouster by US forces in 2001, the extremist group has focused on gaining back control, expelling foreign forces and establishing sharia law.

The marchers say they will continue their protests with sit-in camps and further marches.

ng/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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