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Blast Hits Afghan Police Compound, 1 Dead

Afghan officials say a bomb blast near a police compound in the southern city of Kandahar has killed at least one civilian. Officials add that at least four other people were wounded in the explosion.

Earlier, the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said a bomb blast Saturday in the country's south killed one of its soldiers.

No further details were given about either report.

Kandahar province is the heartland of the insurgency waged by the Taliban since its regime was toppled in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

NATO and Afghan forces recently launched an operation to drive the Taliban out of its southern stronghold.

NATO also has been supporting efforts by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reconcile with Taliban militants.

The spokesman for Afghanistan's High Council for Peace told VOA Saturday there have been "unofficial" discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The spokesman, Bryali Helali, said Taliban officials have been protected during the talks, which have taken place in Kabul and other areas of Afghanistan, as well as other countries.

On Friday, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General David Petraeus, said NATO is facilitating the safe passage of Taliban leaders to Kabul for talks with the Afghan government.

This year has been the deadliest for international forces in Afghanistan since the start of the 9-year war.

The Afghanistan Non-governmental Organization Safety Office in the capital, Kabul, said Friday that insurgent attacks have increased by 59 percent in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2009.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.