KABUL: Confusion mixed with despair in Afghanistan on Friday after former President Hamid Karzai mistakenly declared that the Taliban had announced a new cease-fire in the war-torn country.
The Taliban were quick to dismiss reports of the truce minutes after Karzai made the announcement on Facebook, saying the former president appeared to be referring to a message about last year’s Eid holiday cease-fire.
“It is hoped that media and social media users do not become victims of (this) mistake,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Many Afghans — exhausted by decades of war and violence — have pinned their hopes on another truce for the Eid holiday.
Karzai’s announcement unleashed a brief spell of confusion across the country, with media outlets firing off tweets and breaking news reports announcing the alleged truce.
“Former Afghan president shame on you for posting baseless news,” wrote Facebook user Amanullah Kamran.
“You are making fun of yourself by posting fabricated news,” added Anwar Taskin.
Karzai’s team later acknowledged the mistake.
“We sent the statement based on the audio clip that had been published... by the Taliban. And, we were told that the clip is from today,” said Karzai spokesman Yusof Saha.
The gaffe comes just hours after Karzai along with several other Afghan opposition figures concluded two days of talks with top leaders from the Taliban movement in Moscow.
In a joint statement after the meeting, the parties said they had held “productive and constructive” discussions focusing on several issues but stopped short of announcing a new cease-fire deal.
The Taliban have baulked at repeated US calls to reduce violence while negotiations between the insurgents and Washington are ongoing.
Last June, the Taliban observed an unprecedented cease-fire with Afghan forces during the Eid holidays sparking hopes that the war could be resolved through peaceful means.
However, fighting has only intensified in the ensuing months even as the insurgents and Washington have held repeated rounds of talks aimed at ending the war.
Also on Friday, officials said a car bomb attack on a US convoy in Kabul wounded four US service members and killed at least four Afghan civilians.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which came a day after Daesh claimed a suicide attack outside a military training academy that killed at least six people.
A spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan confirmed that a car bomb hit a US convoy and four service members had suffered minor injuries in the explosion but gave no other details.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said four Afghan civilians had been killed.
The blast sent a plume of white smoke into the air and spread debris across the busy Jalalabad road in the city’s east, an area with several large security compounds which has seen repeated attacks over the years.
But other officials said as many as nine people had been killed with varying estimates of the number of wounded.
“I was hit in the head by flying glass and many people have suffered injuries,” said Abdul Qayum, who was wearing a bandage around his head.
The main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement the attack targeted a convoy of “senior foreign advisers,” killing 10 and destroying two vehicles.
Witnesses said at least three armored Land Cruiser vehicles were in the convoy, one of which was heavily damaged in the explosion and removed from the scene by crane as Afghan and US troops guarded the scene while firefighters cleaned up.