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Returning Afghan Leader Urges Taliban To Shun Violence

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Outsiders cannot bring peace, only Afghan dialogue can, says Gulbudin Hekmatyar, as Taliban launches fresh offensives

A veteran Afghan Mujahedeen leader has told the Taliban they cannot force their way to power, urging them to shun violence and join the peace process.In his first public address since returning to Afghanistan following almost two decades of self-imposed exile, Gulbudin Hekmatyar said Afghans need to lead and own the peace process to end the bloodshed.

“Outsiders cannot bring peace to us, we should end the ongoing war with an intra-Afghan dialogue,” he told a gathering of local elders, party officials, and local government leaders in the eastern Laghman province Saturday.Gulbudin’s return to the political arena is in line with last September’s peace accord between the Afghan government and his Hezb-e-Islami party, which he founded in the mid-1970s, ideologically inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Pakistan’s Jamat-e-Islami.Separately, Taliban militants Saturday launched assaults in at least five provinces on first day of their so-called annual “Mansuri Offensives”. Afghan officials claimed to have thwarted all the attacks, which took place in the Badakhshan, Baghlan, Uruzgan, Farah, and Herat provinces.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said 31 militants were killed and 18 wounded in counter-terrorism offensives nationwide in the past 24 hours.But the Taliban claimed to have overrun checkpoints in a number of provinces, killing scores of security forces.

The militants said they had taken charge of the Zebak district in the northeastern Badakhshan province. Initially district officials had confirmed the development, but later provincial authorities rejected the claim.“The reports of the fall [of the district to the Taliban] are baseless. Our security forces are engaged in intense clashes with the militants, and will soon drive them out,” Deputy Governor Gul Mohammad told Anadolu Agency.According to U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) estimates, the insurgents control nine districts and have influence in 32, while 133 districts out of a total of 398 are “contested”. As for the government of Afghanistan, SIGAR estimates that it controls only 83 districts and has influence over 150.

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