KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban (search) rebels attacked two military checkpoints, triggering fighting that left four people dead in southern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
The violence underscored the poor security in the region ahead of presidential elections set for Oct. 9. Taliban-led rebels have launched repeated attacks, despite the presence of 20,000 U.S.-led forces.
In the bloodiest battle, about 50 suspected Taliban fighters armed with assault rifles and machine guns attacked an Afghan militia checkpoint in the Spinboldak district of Kandahar province (search) late Friday.
In another clash, suspected Taliban riding in three vehicles attacked a checkpoint Friday in a remote, desert area of Grieshk district of Helmand province, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding two others, district chief Lal Mohammed said.
The rebels fled after the hour-long clash, he said.
In Zabul province (search), 15 kidnapped villagers were freed Saturday after dozens of Afghan militia forces tracked down the Taliban captors in the Shaikan area of Mizan district, near where they were abducted the previous day.
After two hours of fighting that left one soldier and two Taliban wounded, the rebels fled, leaving behind four pickup trucks and the villagers, said district chief Rahmatullah, who like many people in Afghanistan uses only one name.
He said the villagers had been kidnapped by the rebels because they actively supported the government. On Friday, Abdul Hakim Latifi (search), a purported Taliban spokesman, had claimed responsibility for the abductions.
Also in Zabul, U.S.-led troops fought militants on Monday and Wednesday northeast of the provincial capital Qalat, killing one militant and wounding three, said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Jon Siepmann. One coalition soldier was also hurt.
Meanwhile, a local military commander reported that a new primary school in Maywand district of Kandahar province was bombed Friday night. The school was empty at the time, and no group claimed responsibility.
The former ruling Taliban regime barred girls from school during its hard-line rule. Other conservative elements in the Pashtun-dominated south have also opposed female education.