Taliban Islamist insurgents beheaded 17 civilians, including two women, who were holding a party with music in a southern Afghanistan village, officials said today.
"I can confirm that this is the work of the Taliban," the Helmand provincial governor's spokesman Daud Ahmadi told AFP, referring to the hardliners notorious during their rule for public executions and the suppression of music and parties.
"Two women and 15 men were beheaded. They were partying with music in an area under the control of the Taliban," he said.
Nematullah Khan, the Musa Qala district chief confirmed that the villagers had organised a party with music, and one local official said he suspected that the two women had been dancing.
Secret parties with dancing women from a gypsy-type tribe are common across southern Afghanistan.
During their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan the Taliban, waging a fierce insurgency against the NATO-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, also tried to stop the mixing of men and women who were not related.
The latest atrocity happened near Zamindawar village, an area on the border between Kajaki and Musa Qala districts where the Taliban are active.
The insurgents have in the past been blamed for beheading local villagers, mostly over charges of spying for Afghan and US-led NATO forces.
Haji Musa Khan, a tribal elder in Musa Qala district, said the region had seen a surge in such killings in recent months.