(Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the Taliban on Monday of beheading 17 villagers, including two women, in volatile Helmand province, in a gruesome attack recalling the dark days of the hardline group’s rule before their 2001 ouster.
He ordered a full investigation into the “mass killing”, which a local official said was punishment to revelers attending a party with music and mixed-sex dancing.
“This attack shows that there are irresponsible members among the Taliban,” Karzai said in a statement.
The Taliban denied they had taken part in the attack, which Karzai’s office said took place in Kajaki district in the southern province.
“The victims were killed for throwing a late night dancing and music party when the Taliban attacked,” Nimatullah, governor for neighboring Musa Qala district, told Reuters.
Men and women do not usually mingle in ultra-religious Afghanistan unless they are related, and parties involving both genders are rare and kept secret.