Suicide bomber kills 26, mostly Taliban celebrating truce in eastern Afghanistan

A suicide bomb attack at a cease-fire gathering in eastern Afghanistan Saturday killed a number of people, most of them Taliban fighters, according to reports.

ISIS claimed responsibility, according to Reuters, which put the death toll at 26. The group’s Amaq news agency said the target was a “gathering of Afghan forces.”

Dozens more were reportedly wounded.

The devastating explosion came as previously unthinkable scenes of unarmed Taliban fighters celebrating Eid, often alongside Afghan security forces, played out in cities throughout the war-shattered country on Friday and again on Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

Within hours of the explosion, President Ashraf Ghani announced he would extend a nine-day cease-fire that was to expire on Sunday and which he had unilaterally announced last week. The cease-fire was to end at the conclusion of the Eid holiday, which follows the monthlong fasting month of Ramadan.

Earlier this week Taliban leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada said he wanted direct talks with the United States before engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government.

There was no immediate Taliban reply to Ghani's latest offer of an extension.

In a statement Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed Ghani's offer of an extension to the cease-fire, adding that the U.S. "stands ready to work with the Afghan government, the Taliban and all the people of Afghanistan to reach a peace agreement and political settlement that brings a permanent end to this war."

The suicide bomber struck in Rodat outside the Nangarhar provincial capital of Jalalabad.

Islamic State (ISIS) fighters did not sign onto the cease-fire.

Atta-ul-Rahman Salim, deputy head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, said Taliban fighters from across the country were entering government-controlled areas to visit their families "and they were being welcomed by government security forces."

In eastern Logar Province, dozens of Taliban on motorcycles roared through the provincial capital of Pul-e-Alam, some of the vehicles festooned with the Afghan flag. Provincial police spokesman Shahpur Ahmadzai told AP that the Taliban were unarmed and no one was allowed into the city with weapons.

Abdullah Faizani, a Taliban fighter from Logar's Baraki District, said it had been seven years since he has been to the provincial capital.

Although he wanted an extended cease-fire, he said he would not lay down his weapons permanently until "all the foreign troops leave Afghanistan."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.