KANDAHAR - At least 14 members of an Afghan family, including women and children, were killed when their minivan struck a roadside bomb in the country’s restive south on Saturday, officials said.

The attack in the Marja district of Helmand province was the first major attack since the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. “Fourteen civilians were killed and five others wounded in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast in Marja district of Helmand province. All of them were from the same family,” deputy provincial governor Mohammad Jan Rasolyar told AFP.

Helmand police chief Nabi Jan Mullah Khel claimed a higher toll, saying 16 civilians, including women and children, were killed while three other civilians were wounded. Haje Fateh Mohammad, a tribal elder from the region, said he counted 15 bodies as he helped retrieve them from the twisted carcass of the vehicle.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the incident but the attack comes as the Taliban intensify their countrywide summer offensive despite repeated government attempts to reopen peace negotiations. The insurgents launched a countrywide offensive in late April, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade.

The surge in attacks has also taken a heavy toll on civilians, according to the UN mission in Afghanistan. Almost 1,000 civilians were killed during the first four months of this year, a sharp jump from the same period last year, it said. Afghan authorities have repeatedly tried to jumpstart talks with the Taliban in the hope of ending the 13-year conflict, but the militants have set tough conditions, including the withdrawal of all foreign troops in Afghanistan. Marja district in the Taliban hotbed of Helmand was the focus of a major US-led military offensive designed to clear out the insurgent group in early 2010. In the meanwhile, Islamic jihadists fuelled a huge spike in terror attacks last year with the global death toll soaring 81 percent in more than 1,100 assaults a month, the United States said Friday. There were 13,463 attacks in 95 countries in 2014 — up by a third from the year before — with Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan bearing the brunt of extremist violence, the State Department said in a report.

The largest number of attacks were carried out by Islamic State (IS) militants, who unleashed 1,083 assaults last year as part of a deadly march across Iraq and Syria. The Taliban were the next most lethal group, with 894 attacks. There was also a sharp rise in violence in Nigeria, where Boko Haram’s Islamist militants have been spreading terror in the north. Some 7,512 people were killed in 662 attacks. The report also highlighted a rise in “lone offender violent extremists in the West” such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January in Paris.

“The terrorism challenges that we face continue to evolve at a rapid pace and we cannot predict with precision what the landscape will look like one decade or even really a year from now,” said top US counterterrorism envoy Tina Kaidanow, unveiling the 2014 Country Reports on Terrorism. “We must do more to address the cycle of violent extremism and transform the very environment from which these terrorist movements emerge.”

Acknowledging that most of the recorded attacks were in war zones, Kaidanow denounced the “savagery” seen last year which had spurred the high death toll. Kidnappings also jumped by a third, with more than 9,400 people taken hostage, three times as many as in 2013. Ransoms have been used by both IS and Al-Qaeda as an effective way to raise money. But Kaidanow said the numbers did not tell the whole story, saying the US has been effective over the past year in building up a coalition to help fight militant groups, choke off funding and stem the flow of foreign fighters.