File Photo: A Taliban (R) stands as Afghan security forces ride on an army vehicle during celebration ceasefire in Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
The Taliban vowed Tuesday to continue its bloody fight against the Afghan government and their foreign backers, brushing aside rising civilian casualties after a ceasefire ushered in hopes of a renewed push for peace talks.
The insurgents returned to the battlefield last week after refusing a government request to extend their unprecedented ceasefire over Eid, launching attacks across the country that have seen scores killed or injured.
The renewed violence has poured some cold water on hopes the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks, with the Taliban refusing to bow to pressure to lay down their arms and curb fighting until foreign forces are pushed out of Afghanistan.
In a statement posted in English online, the group defended its tactics, while dismissing a fatwa issued by religious scholars in Kabul last month against the use of suicide bombings and attacks.
"We are expending our utmost efforts to avoid civilian casualties in our Jihadic attacks," the group said, while adding that such deaths "will happen" in war.
"Religious scholars have never rejected legitimate Jihad because of unintentional civilian casualties," it added.
The statement stands in stark contrast to the unprecedented scenes prompted by the three-day truce as rank and file insurgents flooded into Afghan cities where they took selfies with government troops and civilians.
Calls for peace talks have gathered steam in the ceasefire's wake with a group of dozens of activists from southern Helmand province arriving in Kabul on foot after marching hundreds of miles and calling for an end to the nearly 17-year conflict.
Civilians have paid a disproportionate price in casualties as a result of the conflict. More than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in 2017, down nine percent from the previous year, UN figures show.
But casualties from suicide bombings and attacks were up 17 percent, as the Taliban and Islamic State increasingly target urban areas, particularly Kabul.
The UN has warned that 2018 could be even deadlier for civilians.