Suicide blast in the green zone of the Afghanistan capital Kabul

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Suicide blast in the green zone of the Afghanistan capital Kabul

ISLAMABAD - At least three people were wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a mosque at the entrance to Kabul's fortified Green Zone at prayer time Tuesday, an official said.

The latest attack in the Afghan capital came after seven civilians were killed in the north of the country in a roadside bomb blast authorities blamed on the Taliban.

No group immediately claimed the evening explosion in Kabul, which occurred at a popular mosque located on the edge of the Green Zone.

A loud blast sent shockwaves through the militarised compound, where alarms sounded at various embassies and international offices, sending staff rushing into safe rooms.

"A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a washroom at Wazir Akbar Khan mosque. Initial reports show three people wounded," interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told AFP.

The attack comes on the heels of an Islamic State group-claimed bombing Saturday against a television station's minibus in central Kabul that killed a journalist and the driver.

Late Monday, seven civilians were killed by a roadside bomb linked to the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, officials said, even as authorities pressed for peace talks with the militants.

The blast struck a small truck in Kunduz province carrying a group of labourers in the volatile district of Khan Abad.

No group claimed responsibility, but Kunduz provincial spokesman Esmatullah Muradi blamed the Taliban.

"The Taliban usually plant roadside bombs to target security forces, but their bombs usually kill civilians," he told AFP.

Despite the recent bloodshed, violence across much of Afghanistan has dropped overall since May 24, when the Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Two of six others wounded in the Kunduz blast were in critical condition, district chief Hayatullah Amiri said.

President Ashraf Ghani had welcomed the Taliban ceasefire offer and authorities responded by announcing around 2,000 Taliban prisoners would be released in a "goodwill gesture" with a view to kickstarting peace talks.

Afghanistan's former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has been appointed to lead the talks, has said his team was ready to begin negotiations "at any moment".

Late Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a video conference with top officials in Kabul including Ghani and his first deputy Amrullah Saleh.

While Saleh highlighted the importance of 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.

Violence had surged after the Taliban signed a landmark agreement with the United States in February, which paves the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May next year. - APP/AFP