Suspected Taliban (search) rebels fired rockets and machine guns at a checkpoint in a remote southwestern region, killing eight Afghan soldiers in a nighttime attack, the area's governor said Sunday.

The attackers were riding in three station wagons when they were stopped at the checkpoint. As Afghan troops approached them, they jumped out of the cars and opened fire, Abdul Karim Baravi, governor of Nimroz (search) province, told the Associated Press.

The attack late Friday happened on the Del Aram Road at the last checkpoint before neighboring Farah province, about 465 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul (search). A ninth soldier was wounded.

"This is a terrible attack because they killed innocent soldiers who were only serving the people," Baravi said. He said troops from a nearby checkpoint in Farah gave chase but lost the suspects.

Baravi appealed to the international community to help stabilize the region, along a famous smuggling route where the borders of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan meet.

Nimroz had been relatively quiet since Jan. 12, when dozens of suspected Taliban fighters attacked a police checkpoint. Four officers were killed.

The U.S.-led military coalition is seeking to improve security, especially in the lawless south and east, ahead of landmark presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for September. The coalition has also promised an extensive sweep to capture Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

On Wednesday, Taliban insurgents attacked Afghan soldiers near the Pakistan border in eastern Khost province, killing two soldiers and wounding two. Nine militants were also killed in the exchange of rocket and machine-gun fire.