updated 2/5/2006 6:48:18 AM ET 2006-02-05T11:48:18

A land mine ripped through a police vehicle, killing six officers and wounding four in the latest of a wave of attacks that have rocked southern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.

The blast late Saturday in Kandahar province came after 48 hours of bloodshed that left 38 people dead as hundreds of Afghan and U.S. forces battled some 200 militants in the biggest fighting in months.

The mine was buried in a dirt road and detonated as the police drove over it in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, said Mohammed Nabi, a local police chief.

“The Taliban would have known the officers were coming and placed the mine there to attack them,” he said.

The wounded were rushed to a hospital in Kandahar city, a former Taliban stronghold, and security forces have launched a manhunt for the rebels.

The violence underscores the massive challenge that will face thousands of British and Canadian troops in the next few months as they gradually relieve American forces in southern Afghanistan, a hotbed of anti-government insurgency and the drug trade.

Fighting last year left some 1,600 people dead, the highest toll since American-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

Afghan authorities blame much of the violence on foreign militants. An Iraqi was caught this week trying to sneak into the country, and after interrogating him, officials said they believe a large group of Arab al-Qaida militants were on their way in.

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