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Afghan Taliban Ends Partial Truce As Deadly Bombing Hits Near Soccer Ground

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The Taliban have announced an end to a partial truce in the country as a deadly bomb blast near a soccer field shattered days of relative calm.

The March 2 Taliban announcement came just two days after the militant group and the United States signed a historic deal aimed at ending the nearly 19-year war.

Afghan officials said three civilians were killed and at least seven others were wounded at a soccer match in the eastern province of Khost.

The explosives were placed on a motorbike that had stopped near the soccer field in Nadir Shah Kot district, said the provincial governor’s spokesman, Talib Khan Mangal.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.

The blast came as the Taliban ordered its fighters on March 2 to resume operations against Afghan forces as the militants said the weeklong partial truce between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan forces that preceded the February 29 peace agreement was "over."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the reduction in violence "has ended now and our operations will continue as normal."

The militants "will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces," Mujahid said.

The previous day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani committed to continuing the partial truce at least until talks between his Western-backed government and the Taliban start, scheduled for March 10.

But Ghani also warned he was not committed to a key clause in the Doha deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

Mujahid said the militant group would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met.

The agreement also lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the militants and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government -- which it so far has refused to do.

General Scott Miller, the commander of the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan, said on March 2 that the "United States has been very clear about our expectations -- the violence must remain low."

Washington has said it would defend Afghan forces if they came under Taliban attack.

Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it had given authority to Miller to begin drawing down American troops from about 13,000 to 8,600.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and TOLOnews
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