By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - At least seven civilians were killed Wednesday in a landmine blast in Afghanistan's restive southern Helmand province, officials said.
A spokesman for the provincial governor said a vehicle set off a landmine in the Nahr-e-Siraj district on the main Herat-Kandahar highway in the morning.
"The blast happened when a mini-bus hit the landmine planted by the Taliban on the main highway," Umer Zwak told Anadolu Agency.
Seven people were killed besides two being wounded, he added.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Last week, eight civilians were killed in a similar roadside attack in Musa Qala district of the province.
Meanwhile, three people were killed in an explosion in Khost province last month.
- Stalled peace process
Violence in Afghanistan continues unabated despite a landmark deal between the U.S. and the Taliban in February.
The agreement was to be followed by a prisoner exchange between Kabul and the insurgent group, as well as intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
However, the peace process remains stalled as differences persist between the two sides.
According to official sources, there are 12,000-15,000 inmates, including foreigners from Pakistan, Central Asia and Gulf countries, in different prisons across the war-torn country.
The Taliban have demanded the release of 5,000 of their militants in return for the release of 1,000 captives, including government officials and security personnel.
The Afghan government, however, insists on releasing them in phases along with intra-Afghan talks and a ceasefire in place.
It had announced a 21-member committee under a former intelligence chief to kickstart the dialogue. The peace delegation, however, was rejected by the insurgents.
The committee, surprisingly, has been endorsed by President Ashraf Ghani's rival Abdullah Abdullah.
Although Ghani won the 2019 presidential election, Abdullah dismissed the polls as rigged, and refused to recognize him. Both the presidential candidates took parallel oaths.
The two had co-operated to build a government of national unity in 2014. But the U.S. efforts this time have not borne fruit, yet.