KABUL, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The Afghans on Friday began to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the annual Festival of Sacrifice, by attending prayers as the Taliban and government security forces observed a three-day ceasefire during Eid days.
Afghan worshippers offered prayers in big mosques across the country while practicing social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday morning.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani also took part in Eid prayers together with senior officials and cabinet members in a mosque at the Presidential Palace earlier on Friday.
Greeting the nation, the Afghan president greeted the people and security forces, saying "let's also honor the sacrifices of our brave soldiers and keep them in our prayers."
"As the Taliban announced ceasefire, for a good will and taking in mind the acceleration of peace process, I announce the release of up to 500 additional Taliban prisoners within four days, in addition to the list given by the Taliban," President Ghani said in a short speech.
The exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 government soldiers is part of a peace agreement signed between the United States and Taliban in Qatar in February. The government is not a signatory of the deal.
About 4,600 Taliban inmates have been freed so far since March but the Afghan government suspended the release of the last 400 Taliban inmates over their involvement in serious crimes.
"The government of Afghanistan, under the country's constitution and the criminal of (Code of Law) has no authority to release 400 prisoners listed by the Taliban. But this doesn't mean we give negative response to the release of all Taliban prisoners," Ghani noted.
"I have to confer with the nation by convening Loya Jirga or grand assembly to take decision in connection to the fate of the said 400 prisoners."
Meanwhile, Taliban militants freed 82 Afghan soldiers on Thursday, bringing to 1,000 the total number of Afghan security force members released by the group.
Following the Eid prayers, the worshipers joined the sacrificing of animals and distributing the meat to the poor families.
Muslims wear new clothes on Eid days and greet relatives and friends to boost cordial relations. Pocket money and gifts are given to children on this occasion.
However, nine people were killed and 40 others wounded in a suicide car bomb explosion in Pul-e-Alam, capital city of eastern Logar province on Thursday evening. The Taliban denied that its fighters were involved in the attack.
The deadly blast also damaged scores of shops and buildings near a main traffic square in the region, 60 km south of Kabul. Enditem