KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – A bomb exploded in a market in southern Afghanistan on Friday, injuring four civilians, police said. Elsewhere in the region, a gunfight between police and suspected Taliban rebels left two officers and three militants dead.

The latest violence comes a day after Afghan and American troops killed a suspected Taliban leader in their drive to secure unstable parts of Afghanistan ahead of Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, the U.S. military said Friday. A U.S. service member was killed Thursday in an explosives training accident in central Uruzgan province – the seventh American fatality in eight days.

Officials have warned of a possible spike in violence ahead of the vote – the next stage in the country’s efforts to build a democracy after a quarter century of conflicts.

The bomb in the southern city of Kandahar was thought to have been planted in front of shoe and clothing shops that had opened for a half-day at Rangrazal market, which was officially closed for the Muslim day of prayer.

Two men, a woman and a child were wounded and several shops were damaged, said Kandahar province’s police chief Abdul Malik Wahidi. No suspects were arrested.

It was the latest such attack in Kandahar, where a suicide bombing on June 1 killed 20 people. The victims then included a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and the police chief of the capital, Gen. Akran Khakrezwal.

Fighting and terror attacks have killed more than 900 people across Afghanistan since March in a resurgence of activity by Taliban fighters, whose government was forced from power by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

Also Friday, suspected Taliban guerrillas ambushed an Afghan police vehicle in southern Zabul province, setting off a gunfight that killed three militants and two policemen, said the Zabul governor’s spokesman, Ali Khail. Police recovered hand grenades, rockets and three AK-47 assault rifles from the rebels, he said.

The U.S. military said that Afghan soldiers and U.S. paratroopers killed Qari Amadullah, who is believed to have led up to 50 Taliban militants. Amadullah was killed in a firefight Tuesday in eastern Paktika province, a military statement said.

Amadullah’s name is the same as that of the Taliban’s former intelligence chief, but Afghan and U.S. officials were unable to confirm whether it was the same person.

AP-ES-08-12-05 1634EDT

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