Heavy fighting involving several hundred Taliban fighters and Afghan and coalition forces in southern Afghanistan has killed about a dozen police, a Canadian soldier and more than 30 militants, officials said Thursday.

The violence raged late Wednesday and early Thursday in the volatile southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, a former Taliban heartland where supporters of the ousted regime have been stepping up attacks in recent months.

A large-scale attack on a police and government headquarters in Helmand province on Wednesday involved several hundred militants and lasted about eight hours, said the deputy governor of Helmand province, Amir Mohammed Akhunzaba.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

He said that nine police were killed and the bodies of 14 dead militants left behind. Five police were wounded, he said.

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Mohammed Yousuf Stanezai, said 13 police were killed and up to 40 militants may have died and their bodies taken away.

In a second attack in Kandahar province, a Canadian soldier and about 18 Taliban militants were killed Wednesday, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a Canadian military spokesman.

U.S. and British forces provided air support, bombing Taliban positions during the fight, Lundy said.