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"We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of the Afghan people for a long lasting and real peace, and we urge them to prepare for peace talks based on Islamic values and principles", he said.

"We have taken the buses to a safe area to prevent any clashes and we are now identifying members of the security forces", he said, adding that civilians would be released soon.

Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief in neighbouring Takhar province, says the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and were travelling to the capital, Kabul.

The government previously announced a ceasefire with the Taliban during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June this year.

An official in Ghani's office said the three-month-long ceasefire declared by the government was conditional, and if the Taliban did not respect it, the government would maintain military operations.

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President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban on Sunday to mark the Eid al Adha holiday, even though fighting against the Western-backed government in Kabul and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation coalition forces has increased.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the militants continued to hold 21 others hostage on August 20 after they ambushed a convoy of passenger buses traveling to Kabul for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Those who surrendered also provided the Taliban with USA -funded military vehicles, weapons and ammunition, a Taliban statement said.

In his call on Sunday for the truce, Ghani said, "The cease-fire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban's stand".

If the Taliban accept the ceasefire offer, the Afghan government will establish a coordination center in Kabul which will operate around the clock to monitor the implementation of the truce, said Chakhansuri.

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The militant leader, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah, reiterated the group's position that the country's 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.

The militants, fighting to expel Western forces and defeat the Western-backed Kabul government, said they would free hundreds of prisoners, without going into further details.

The battle for Ghazni killed at least 100 members of the Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials. The Taliban accepted that three-day truce but later rejected a call by the president to extend it. "It is our hope, and that of the worldwide community, that the Afghan people may celebrate Eid al-Adha this year in peace, free from fear", he said.

Ghani has been trying to nudge the resurgent Taliban, which has been fighting to overthrow the US -backed government in Kabul since 2001, into peace talks.

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