A group of 17 civilians – 15 men and two women – have been killed by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, officials said.
Though initial reports of Monday’s killings say the 17 victims were beheaded for taking part in a mixed-gender party in the southern Helmand province, officials now say the deaths may have been the result of a rivalry between two Taliban commanders over the two women in the troubled Musa Qala district.
“As a result of the two Taliban commanders clash, 15 innocent [civilians] were killed and after the killing of the civilians the commanders, as well, killed the two women for whom the Taliban commanders fought with each other,” Helmand’s Provincial Media Office said in a statement on Monday.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, says the Helmand provincial governor’s office has told Al Jazeera that two Taliban commanders were engaged in a dispute over the two women at the time of the killings.
“There are conflicting reports, but what is not disputed is that the Taliban killed 17 civilians,” she said.
A statement released by the office of Mohammad Gulab Mangal, the provincial governor, said the province’s intelligence sources are currently investigating the details of the incident.
Series of attacks
The reports of the civilian deaths come hours after 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters are said to have stormed an Afghan army checkpoint in the province’s Washir district.
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Another four soldiers were wounded in that attack.
There are also reports that five soldiers went with the Taliban after the attack to the Guzran area checkpoint. It is not clear whether those five soldiers were taken as hostages or are infiltrators allied with the group.
The Taliban have claimed to have at least one insider in that attack, our correspondent said.
In another attack in the country, this time a so-called “green-on-blue” attack, two NATO soldiers in the eastern province of Laghman were also killed on Monday after an Afghan soldier shot at them.
“A member of the Afghan National Army turned his weapon on ISAF forces, killing two ISAF service members in [eastern] Laghman province today,” a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan told the AFP news agency.
The soldier in the Laghman attack was killed by return fire.
There have been a total of 42 deaths attributed to such attacks in 2012.