KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – A series of battles in volatile southern and eastern Afghanistan killed 14 suspected militants and an Afghan soldier, while suspected Taliban rebels shot dead a family of three, officials said Saturday.

The fighting, which also wounded a U.S. service member and four Afghan troops, was the deadliest in recent weeks and comes a month after landmark legislative elections that many people had hoped would sideline the insurgents.

Violence also broke out in relatively calm northern Afghanistan, where gunmen fired at a patrol of British peacekeepers in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said Sheir Jan Durani, a police spokesman.

A spokesman for a NATO-led peacekeeping force, Capt. Michele Cortese, said four of the British soldiers were wounded. Security forces cordoned off the area and arrested four suspects.

The deadliest fighting in the south was in Uruzgan province Thursday, a U.S. military statement said. It started after a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol was attacked by militants firing assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. A U.S. service member and an Afghan soldier were wounded in this assault.

Shortly afterward, militants launched a second attack a few miles from the first, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding three others. The injured were evacuated to a hospital at a nearby base. There were no U.S. or Afghan casualties in the third battle.

“A total of 13 enemy fighters were killed in the three engagements,” the statement said. “Coalition aircraft and attack helicopters provided close air support for the operations.”

In eastern Paktika on Friday, American troops attacked a group of militants as they laid a roadside bomb, capturing two and killing one as he tried to flee, the second statement said. A fourth rebel managed to escape.

Two mirrors used for signaling to other insurgents and blasting caps were found on the slain militant.

In separate violence in southern Helmand province, suspected Taliban rebels fired at a vehicle late Friday and killed two brothers and a son of one of the men, said Ghulam Muhiddin, a local government leader.

The motive was not clear. One of the men was a candidate in legislative elections last month but had lost, Muhiddin said.

Taliban-led rebels have stepped up attacks this year, leaving almost 1,500 dead. The violence is the deadliest since U.S.-led forces ousted the insurgents from power in late 2001 and has raised fears for this country’s fragile democracy.

AP-ES-10-29-05 0350EDT

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