Taliban militants beheaded 17 partygoers for holding a mixed-sex gathering with music and dancing, Afghan officials said.
The insurgents murdered the guests, who included two women, after attacking the party in northern Helmand late on Sunday because they considered it immoral.
The attack happened in an area of Musa Qala district largely under Taliban control and Afghan officials said an investigation into the deaths was being hampered because they could not reach the area. Nematullah Khan, governor of Musa Qala, said the Taliban had tried to stop the party. “They were having a music party and the Taliban came and killed them and cut off their heads,” he said.
Shooting was heard at the scene, he said, and it was unclear if they had been shot dead first. There was no claim of responsibility from the Taliban and their spokespersons were unavailable for comment.
Hamid Karzai ordered a full investigation into the “mass killing”. “This attack shows that there are irresponsible members among the Taliban,” the Afghan president said in a statement.
Parties and social occasions in Afghanistan are usually strictly segregated and there is no mixing of men and women unless they are related.
An elder from the area confirmed a group of young men had held an “immoral” party at a house and had been attacked and killed. Juma Khan said: “Unfortunately the young men do this sometimes. They had a party with music and dancing and they were behaving badly with the women.”
He said the killing may have been driven by a feud, with enemies of the guests either tipping off the Taliban, or pretending to act with their authority. A statement from the provincial governor’s office later claimed the massacre was caused by two Taliban commanders fighting over the women.
Hours after the massacre, an Afghan army checkpoint was stormed elsewhere in the province and 10 soldiers killed. A spokesperson for the governor said five soldiers who were missing after the attack were being investigated.
Yesterday, two American soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan comrade after an argument during a joint patrol. The shooting in Laghman province brought the Nato toll from so-called green on blue killings to 42 this year, with 12 in August. US soldiers shot dead the Afghan soldier.