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Taliban behead 17 at a late-night party in Afghanistan

Kandahar, Aug 28 (): Taliban beheaded 17 party-goers, including 2 women in Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province, where they were attending a mixed-gender party with music and dancing, officials said on Monday.

The decapitated bodies were abandoned at a roadside in southern Afghanistan, according to Mullah Sharafuddin, the governor of Kajaki district in Helmand province. All 17 bodies were decapitated but it was not clear if they had been shot first.

District government chief Neyamatullah Khan said the Taliban slaughtered them to show their disapproval of the event.

The killings came at the beginning of a violent 24 hours for NATO and Afghan authorities in which 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in a mass insurgent attack, also in Helmand, while two U.S. soldiers were slain by a rogue Afghan soldier, Monday morning. The latest in a series of so-called “insider attacks” have severely damaged the trust between coalition forces and their Afghan allies.

During their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban, now waging a fierce insurgency against the Nato-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, tried to stop the mixing of men and women who were not related. The hardliners were notorious during their rule for public executions and the suppression of music and parties.

Men and women do not usually mingle in Afghanistan unless they are related and parties involving both genders are rare and kept secret.

The killings, in the district where U.S. Marines have battled the Taliban for years, were a reminder of how much power the insurgent group still wields in the south — particularly as international forces draw down and hand areas over to Afghan forces.

Helmand is one of the areas seeing the largest reduction in U.S. troops, as the force ordered up by President Barack Obama departs. The U.S. started drawing down forces from a peak of nearly 103,000 last year, and plans to have decreased to 68,000 troops in country by October.