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Rebel Attacks Kill 12 in Southern Afghanistan

Officials in southern Afghanistan say violent attacks by Taliban fighters have killed at least 12 people, including five civilians hit by a roadside bomb near Kandahar.

Authorities say the hidden bomb was meant for NATO forces or Afghan government troops, but detonated late Saturday as a taxi passed by. Three men, one woman and one child were killed, and two other people in the vehicle were wounded.

In a separate attack, Taliban fighters ambushed a convoy taking construction materials to a NATO military base in neighboring Helmand province. Four drivers and two security guards were shot to death and three security guards were wounded.

In Zabul province, the head of a government peace and reconciliation commission was kidnapped by gunmen early Sunday and later found dead. His security guard and driver are missing.

The Afghan government's reconciliation commissions have been helping former Taliban fighters and other rebels rejoin lawful society and renounce extremism. Despite those efforts, Taliban militants have regrouped in southern Afghanistan and launched a surge of attacks in recent months.

Attacks by militants are most often aimed at the Kabul government's soldiers and the nearly 40,000 NATO troops serving in Afghanistan. But the Taliban's suicide attacks and roadside bombs, hangings, gunfire and mortar barrages also have exacted a heavy death toll among civilians.

A media count by Associated Press based on official figures says there was more bloodshed in Afghanistan last year than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 that ousted the former Taliban regime.

On Saturday, an Afghan non-governmental security group, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, ANSO said 2008 cannot be expected to be any better than 2007.

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