Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces resumed Sunday in the restive southern province of Helmand, officials said, ending a three-day ceasefire agreed by the warring sides to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
There were clashes on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, which has seen intense fighting since the United States began its final troop withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this month, an Afghan military spokesman and a local official said.
“The fighting started early today and is still ongoing,” Attaullah Afghan, head of the Helmand provincial council, told AFP.
He said Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah and other districts.
An Afghan army spokesman in the south confirmed fighting had resumed.
“They (Afghan forces) started the operation… do not put the blame on us,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
The three-day truce initiated by the Taliban and swiftly agreed to by the Afghan government had largely held during the Eid holidays that ended on Saturday.
The calm was broken on Friday by a blast at a mosque on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, which killed 12 people including the imam leading Friday prayers.
The Taliban denied it was behind the attack which has been claimed by the Islamic State group, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist groups.
The truce was only the fourth agreed pause in fighting in the two-decades-long conflict.
Violence had previously surged in several provinces of Afghanistan – including former insurgent bastions Helmand and Kandahar.
It comes after negotiators from the Afghan government and Taliban said they had met in Doha on Friday to discuss speeding up peace talks, which opened in September but have made little headway.
“Both sides agreed to continue the talks after (Eid al-Fitr),” the Taliban tweeted.