KABUL, Afghanistan -- Insurgents attacked a large party in a Taliban-controlled area of southern Afghanistan and beheaded 17 people, officials said today.
A local government official initially said the victims were civilians at a celebration late Sunday involving music and dancing in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province. The official, Neyamatullah Khan, said the Taliban killed the party-goers for flouting 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.
The Taliban has controlled large parts of Musa Qala, a district encompassing more than 100 villages, since 2001. They enforce the same strict interpretation of Islamic law that was imposed on all of Afghanistan during Taliban rule from 1996-2001.