KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Security forces raided a southern Afghan village and killed 15 suspected militants, including a relative of a Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.
Fighting and attacks elsewhere left 25 other people dead, an army general said yesterday.
The violence extended three weeks of the fiercest battles since the Taliban fell in 2001, and the US ambassador, Ronald Neumann, said the insurgents appear to be better organized and greater in numbers than reported.
Neumann predicted that there would be no letup in the offensive against the Taliban when thousands of British, Canadian and Dutch troops deploy in the south by next month to take over for US troops.
``I think you will now see a very strong press back," Neumann told reporters in Kabul. ``I think a lot of unfortunate people who believe the Taliban and fight with them are going to die."
Mullah Omar's brother-in-law, Mullah Amanullah, was killed, with 14 other insurgents in Siachave village, Uruzgan province, when troops stormed the area late Sunday after a tip from clan members, said the Afghan army commander, General Rehmatullah Raufi.
Amanullah, whose body was recovered from the village, was the Taliban commander in the province's Dihrawud district. He was responsible for numerous rebel attacks, Raufi said.
It was not clear how close Amanullah was to Omar, who is believed to be hiding along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
A coalition spokesman, Sergeant Chris Miller said the military was looking into the report that Amanullah had been killed.
Six other suspected militants were captured, and several assault rifles and rocket launchers seized in the raid on the village, 50 miles north of Kandahar city, Raufi said.
Two Canadian soldiers were wounded yesterday in a battle with the Taliban outside Kandahar, Canadian media reported. Canadian Press said the soldiers were in serious condition.
In a second raid early yesterday, Afghan and coalition troops killed 12 suspected militants in southern Kandahar province's Saidan village, Raufi said.
The rebels were discovered hiding in a shop. They were killed in a fierce gun battle that followed a two-day operation tracking the insurgents.
Ten other militants were killed in neighboring Helmand province's Sangin district Sunday, in a battle involving Afghan and British forces, the Afghan general said. One British solider was killed and two were wounded, Raufi said.
The British Defense Ministry said British soldiers were on mobile patrol when the firefight broke out.
Two civilians were killed and six were wounded by a bomb as their car was crossing a bridge in eastern Paktia province, said a local police chief, Abdulanan Raufi. It was not clear why they had been targeted.
The surge in fighting has killed about 550 people, mostly militants, since mid-May. Neumann said the rebels have stepped up attacks to scare away NATO.
``They are making a major effort, believing wrongly that the European, Canadian forces will not have the will to fight," he said.
The new troops are part of a NATO force that is assuming responsibility for security in the south from the US-led coalition.
The number of foreign combat soldiers in the region will double once the transition is complete.
Neumann said he also believes some of the violence is being caused by drug barons inciting fighting in an effort to destabilize the region and to undermine the government's US-backed campaign against narcotics.
Neumann said an effort by President Hamid Karzai's administration to forcibly eradicate poppies prompted drug leaders to take action.
``President Karzai led a very strong policy to have governors eradicate poppy and to tell people not to grow," he said.
``There were efforts by drug dealers and terrorists together to prevent that. Now they are trying to use the violence to guard their wealth," Neumann added.
Afghanistan supplies almost 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin, and some of the profits are believed to fund the Taliban.