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Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief in neighboring Takhar province, said the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and were traveling to the capital, Kabul.

Esmatullah Muradi, spokesman for the provincial governor in Kunduz, also confirmed the rescue of the hostages. The Taliban has not officially responded to Ghani's offer.

An Interfax news agency report stated on Monday that Zamir Kabulov, special representative of the Russian president on Afghanistan said a meeting has been organized for September 4 and that a Taliban delegation is expected to attend.

The days-long battle eventually ended in defeat for the Taliban, but the group also carried out significant assaults on several Afghan military bases elsewhere in the country, killing scores of soldiers and police officers in the process.

On Monday morning, the Taliban ambushed a convoy of three buses travelling on a road in the Khan Abad district, and forced everyone to come with them, according to Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Ghani's call for the truce, made during celebrations Sunday of the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan's independence, said "the cease-fire should be observed from both sides, and its continuation and duration also depend on the Taliban's stand".

It is now unclear what the group has decided - although it did say it would release "hundreds" of "enemy prisoners" to mark the start of the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday.

The confusion comes just two months after a similarly messy exchange between Ghani and the Taliban, in which the Afghan president extended a unilateral cease-fire on the occasion of another holiday, Eid al-Fitr.

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Ghani said on Sunday the ceasefire would only be implemented if the Taliban respect it.

Kabulov justified Moscow's decision to hold talks with the Taliban by stating that the militant movement controlled "more than half of Afghanistan's territory", and, therefore, must be included in an eventual peace settlement.

The Taliban have been at war with the USA -backed Afghan government for nearly 17 years, and have stepped up attacks in recent years, seizing rural districts and carrying out major assaults against security forces and government compounds on an almost daily basis.

The Afghan government in turn has called on the Taliban to send a list of names to government of detainees they plan to release.

The battle for Ghazni killed at least 100 members of the Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops in 2014.

Taliban sources said earlier that their leaders had provisionally agreed on a four-day truce, although supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada still had to give his final approval.


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