INSURGENTS ATTACKED A large party in a Taliban-controlled area of southern Afghanistan and killed 17 people, officials have said.
The 17 civilians, including 15 men and two women, were killed for reportedly attending a party in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province.
Earlier reports said that all of them had been beheaded but it has since been reported that the 17 had either had been beheaded or had their throats cut.
BBC News reports that some showed signs of beatings or had gunshot wounds.
A local government official initially said the victims were civilians at a celebration late last night involving music and dancing which would have been seen to flout the extreme brand of Islam embraced by the militants.
However, provincial government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said later that those killed were caught up in a fight between two Taliban commanders over two women, who were among the dead.
Ahmadi said shooting broke out during the fight but it was unclear whether the music and dancing triggered the violence, and whether the dead were all civilians or possibly included some fighters.
AFP reports that a British government minister said that he was “appalled” by the attacks which he condemned “in the strongest possible terms”.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: ”I am appalled at the cruel killing of 17 people at a party…. The facts are still being established but early indications are that the Taliban were responsible.”
The Taliban has controlled large parts of Musa Qala, a district encompassing more than 100 villages, since 2001. They enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
In separate incidents 10 Afghan army soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack in the same province of Helmand. Elsewhere, two US soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan National Army soldier in a so-called ‘green on blue’ attack.
Nato forces are due to withdraw all combat troops from the country by 2014, 13 years after it was invaded in the aftermath of 9/11.
- with reporting from Associated Press