KUNDUZ -- Seven civilians were killed by a roadside bomb linked to the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday (June 2), even as authorities pressed for peace talks with the militants.
Overall violence across much of Afghanistan has dropped, however, since May 24, when the Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire to mark the Eid ul Fitr holiday.
The latest blast struck a small truck carrying a group of labourers late Monday (June 1) in the volatile district of Khanabad, Kunduz Province.
No group claimed responsibility, but Kunduz provincial spokesman Esmatullah Muradi pointed the finger at the Taliban.
"The Taliban usually plant roadside bombs to target security forces, but their bombs usually kill civilians," he told AFP.
Two of six Afghans wounded in the blast were in critical condition, said district chief Hayatullah Amiri.
Militants killing civilians
Last November 27, a roadside bomb, believed to be planted by Taliban militants, killed at least 15 civilians when they were on their way to a wedding from Khanabad District to Imam Sahib District.
President Ashraf Ghani had welcomed the Taliban ceasefire offer and authorities responded by announcing that about 2,000 Taliban prisoners would be released in a "goodwill gesture" with a view to kick-starting peace talks.
The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, said on May 30 his team was ready to begin negotiations "at any moment".
Late June 1, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been pushing for peace talks to begin, held a video conference with top officials in Kabul including Ghani and his first deputy, Amrullah Saleh.
While Saleh highlighted the importance of the ongoing drop in violence and the need for holding on to a ceasefire, the two sides discussed the future steps needed to bring peace in Afghanistan, Ghani's office said in a statement.
The issue of the release of Taliban prisoners and the venue for the intra-Afghan peace talks were discussed in particular, it said, adding that Pompeo reiterated Washington's support for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.