Insurgents behead 17 Afghans for attending mixed-sex party

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) -- Seventeen civilians were brutally killed by insurgents in southern Afghanistan on late Sunday evening after they attended a mixed-sex party, local authorities said on Monday. No group claimed responsibility but officials blamed Taliban insurgents for the killings.

The seventeen bodies, including two women, were found on Monday by the side of a road in the Shah Kariz region of Kajaki District in Helmand province, which is located in the country's volatile south. The victims were reportedly attacked after they attended a mixed-sex party where men and women were celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the gruesome killings, but provincial officials blamed the Taliban who have previously banned music, games and other forms of entertainment when they controlled large parts of Afghanistan. Some of the bodies also had gunshot wounds while others showed signs of beatings.

"Those who perpetrated this act are cowards, killing innocent men and women," said U.S. General John R. Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). "This callous act clearly demonstrates the insurgents' willingness to stop at nothing in terrorizing civilians. These acts will not sway the will and fortitude of the noble people of Afghanistan."

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also strongly condemned the murders and reiterated its call for civilians to be protected. "This criminal act is unjustifiable and totally disregards the sanctity of human life," the organization said in a statement. "UNAMA has repeatedly stated that the killing of civilians is a clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws and has called for the perpetrators of such reprehensible acts to be brought to justice."

In the United Kingdom, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt also expressed his shock at the massacre. "The facts are still being established but early indications are that the Taliban were responsible," he said. "We condemn acts of extreme violence like this in the strongest terms."

The Afghan Interior Ministry described the attack as an 'inhumane and cowardly act.'

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