Taliban attacks Afghan base as Pakistan pushes for talks
A man inspects damaged houses near the site where a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in a truck, in Balkh district of Balkh province. AFP
A Taliban-claimed suicide attack killed at least three people in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday as neighbouring Pakistan pushed for delayed peace talks to begin.
The suicide bomber detonated explosives in a truck near an Afghan army base in the restive northern province of Balkh, military spokesman for the region Hanif Rezayee said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that the attack was revenge for a video circulating online that appeared to show Afghan troops desecrating the bodies of Taliban soldiers in the south.
The Ministry of Defence has launched an investigation into the video, which surfaced earlier this month.
The assault on Tuesday killed two civilians and a commando and wounded more than 40 others, Rezayee said. Many houses were damaged or destroyed and soldiers were helping to get the victims to safety, he added.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the attack.
It comes as the Pakistani government held talks with key Taliban negotiators in Islamabad on Tuesday, where the country's foreign minister called on the insurgents to "commence" peace talks in Afghanistan soon.
Pakistan has said negotiations are the only way forward in Afghanistan and sees its role as a "facilitator".
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Kabul expected Pakistan to cooperate in bringing peace to the country.
"Pakistan has so far failed to deliver on its commitments when it comes to peace and stability in Afghanistan," Sediqqi told AFP.
"We expect the Pakistani government to take practical steps and cooperate with the Afghan government and the international community to help bring stability in the region."
The warring Taliban and Afghan government had signalled they were prepared to launch negotiations immediately after the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which ended earlier this month, but the process remains bogged down over a controversial prisoner swap.
Both sides have fought for nearly two decades in a conflict that has left tens of thousands of people dead. The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, when it was ousted by a US-led invasion.
Ghani condemned the attack on the military base and urged the Taliban to begin talks.
"The Taliban's emphasis on continuation of violence poses challenges to the peace opportunities," Ghani said, according to Sediqqi.
"The Taliban should give up fighting and killing Afghans, accept a ceasefire and start direct talks with the government of Afghanistan."
In a separate incident on Tuesday, gunmen shot and wounded Saba Sahar, a well-known Afghan actress and women's rights campaigner.
Police said Sahar's driver and bodyguard were also wounded in the attack in Kabul.