Afghan authorities have accused Taliban fighters of beheading two children as a warning to villagers not to cooperate with the Kabul government, but Taliban leaders deny the charges.
The boys, aged 10 and 16, were beheaded on Sunday in the southern province of Kandahar after they collected left-over food from a police post near their home, provincial police spokesman Ghorzang Afridi told the AFP news agency.
"The children used to go to a police checkpoint to collect food and other things thrown away by police, so the Taliban thought they were spies and abducted them and beheaded them," Afridi said.
"They were poor children who lived on collecting scraps and leftovers," he added, saying that villagers found the two boys' bodies in a remote area of Zhari district and informed police.
Kandahar provincial spokesman Javid Faisal confirmed the incident, but the Taliban denied any role in the death of the boys, named Khan and Hameedullah.
Speaking to AFP from an undisclosed location, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi dismissed the allegations as government propaganda and condemned the murders.
"The government does this to distract from attacks such as in Kabul this morning," Ahmadi said, referring to a Taliban strike on the capital's airport earlier on Monday.
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Seven Taliban fighters launched a grenade and gun attack on the airport, firing at military buildings before being overwhelmed by Afghan security forces.
No civilians or security forces were killed, but flights were cancelled or delayed for several hours.
Two of the attackers blew themselves up and five others were killed when elite troops stormed the half-built mansions where the fighters were holed up near the airport's perimeter fence.
Also on Monday, six fighters used a truck bomb to attack a provincial council building and voter registration centre in the southern province of Zabul.
All the attackers were killed and three police and 15 civilians were wounded, officials said.
Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and one of Afghanistan's most restive provinces.
In July last year, a 16-year-old boy accused by the Taliban of spying for the government was beheaded and skinned in the district where Sunday's incident took place.
Last August the Taliban beheaded 17 partygoers, including two women, who were holding a gathering with music in Helmand province.
The fighters have in the past been blamed for beheading scores of local villagers, mostly over charges of spying for Afghan and US-led NATO military forces.