At least 9 people have died in an attack targeting the military in Helmand province.

Afghan special forces stand guard at the site of a suicide bomber attack on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 29, 2020. (File photo)
Afghan special forces stand guard at the site of a suicide bomber attack on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 29, 2020. (File photo) (AP)

A car bomb has exploded at a military checkpoint in southern Afghanistan.

An Afghan official said the suicide attack killed at least nine people, including four civilians.

Omer Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Helmand, said on Thursday a small child and three security personnel were also wounded in the late Wednesday night attack in Nahri Sarah district.

Zwak said civilians were in a vehicle passing by when the attacker targeted the checkpoint. Two women were among those killed.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are in control of most of Helmand province.

The violence comes even as Taliban leaders and Afghan government-appointed negotiators are holding historic peace talks in Qatar, a Mideast country where the Taliban set up a political office after they were toppled from power in the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan. 

The negotiations, which started earlier this month, are meant to end the fighting and establish a roadmap for a post-war society.

READ MORE: Fighting leaves dozens of Taliban insurgents dead in eastern Afghanistan 

READ MORE: Negotiators near compromise in stalled Afghan peace talks: official

Negotiating over future role of Hanafi vs Shias 

The Afghan government and Taliban negotiators are nearing a compromise on a key sticking point that has stalled peace talks in Doha, a senior Afghan official said on Wednesday.

Talks started in the Qatari capital on September 12, but an optimistic beginning was marred by ongoing violence and discussions got bogged down by disagreements over which interpretation of Islam should be used to frame laws in a post-conflict Afghanistan.

Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation that is overseeing Kabul's peace push, said in an interview with AFP that after several small-group meetings in Doha, the issue had been resolved "to a large extent".

Both sides have provisionally agreed "to recognise the principal issue of Hanafi's role without any discrimination to Shia communities or minorities, so … the compromise is around that," Abdullah said.

Another stumbling block has emerged: the extent to which the Taliban recognise the legitimacy of the Kabul government under a future deal.

The insurgents have always insisted President Ashraf Ghani's government is a US-enabled "puppet" regime. In the deal the Taliban cut with Washington in February, they did not have to recognise Kabul.

Similarly, the Taliban now want any future peace deal to exclude overt references to the government and instead to frame the agreement as some sort of "intra-Afghan" accord.

READ MORE: Top Pakistani, Afghan officials kick off talks on Afghanistan peace bid

'Positive feelings' over Pak involvement

Abdullah was speaking in Islamabad as he finished a three-day visit to Pakistan.

The South Asian nation has had dismal relations with neighbouring Afghanistan, with Kabul frequently accusing Islamabad of harbouring Taliban fighters and funding the insurgency.

Pakistan denies such support but has said its influence over the Taliban encouraged the insurgents to hold talks with Washington, which paved the way for current peace talks.

"I leave Pakistan with positive feelings and positive senses," Abdullah said, adding he had asked Pakistani authorities to tell the Taliban to reduce violence, which is flaring across Afghanistan as the Taliban refuse to entertain a ceasefire.

"My sense was this would be communicated publicly and in other ways," he said.

Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy who brokered Washington's deal with the Taliban in February, was due to arrive in Doha later on Wednesday to "express US support for a negotiated settlement that brings an end to 40 years of war," the US State Department said.

READ MORE: Peace in Afghanistan is impossible without an inclusive approach

Source: TRTWorld and agencies