Up to six people were killed after a mortar shell struck a wedding ceremony in northern Afghanistan on Sunday.
An Afghan delegation is expected to travel to Qatar over the next two days to resume the stalled peace negotiations, Kabul’s TOLO News reported on Sunday.
According to the Afghan news outlet, the delegation includes eight-to-10 members from the Afghan government’s negotiating team.
In recent weeks, several others meetings have been held in the presence of the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah as well as Deputy Taliban Leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who met with negotiators for the first time on May 13th.
“Some of us will leave [for Doha] on Monday or Tuesday and then all the delegation will be there,” Republic negotiator Nader Nadery said, as quoted by TOLO News.
“Ensuring peace, making an effort to end the war and to establish a common future within the bounds of the Afghan achievements of the last years is a priority for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and for its people and government,” he added.
While the latest developments signal the insurgent group’s willingness to resume the stalled peace talks, the Afghan negotiator said results should not be expected in months or even a year.
“It would be too soon to expect a result in one month, two months, six months, or a year—same as other peace processes,” said Nadery.
The Afghan team also believes the Taliban will not be ready for the upcoming Turkey meeting, which was initially postponed in April over the militant group’s refusal to attend.
Earlier this week, a report by Voice of America [VOA] said the Taliban would be willing to attend the conference “based on three conditions”.
The three conditions stipulate that the conference must be short, the agenda should not include decision-making on critical issues, and the Taliban delegation must attend at a low-level. However, the Taliban official did not elaborate on the “critical issues” mentioned in the list of conditions.
The Qatar meetings also come following a statement by National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib who said Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah has been missing for the past 12 months, citing intelligence information.
“There has been no news about Hibatullah for the last 12 months. The Taliban themselves have not heard anything from him for the last 12 months,” said Mohib.
However, the Taliban has dismissed the statement as “baseless”.
“We hope that the Taliban agrees on peace. There is no more excuse for war. Foreign forces are leaving,” said Zabihullah Mujaddedi, the leader of Jabha-e-Nejat-e-Milli [Afghan National Liberation Front].
Meanwhile attacks on civilians have intensified since the Joe Biden administration announced a US and NATO troop withdrawal from the country that is set to be completed by September 11 this year.
On Sunday, up to six people were killed and four others injured after a mortar shell struck a wedding in northern Afghanistan. Most of the casualties were children.
Qatar has strongly condemned the attack, reiterating its rejection of violence and terrorism “regardless of the motives and reasons”.
According to reports, the Taliban had initially aimed the mortar at an army checkpoint, but it missed the target and struck a wedding instead. The militants denied responsibility for the attack and blamed government forces.
At least four other people were killed and 17 others wounded after a roadside bomb struck a minibus carrying lecturers and students from Alberoni University in Afghanistan’s northern Parvan province on Saturday.
According to Afghanistan-based TOLO News, Noor Ahmad Ahmadi, a lecturer of Education Faculty at the university, and Maiwand Farooq, a lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine at the university, were among those killed in the attack, with three of the wounded in critical condition.
The surge in violence poses a risk to an already fragile peace talks. The warring factions have struggled to reach an agreement since the negotiations began in Qatar in September last year.