The Taliban have beheaded two boys they accused of spying, according to authorities in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
By Zubair Babakarkhail, Kabul, and Rob Crilly
The youngest, aged 10, was known in the area for accepting food from police officers in order to feed his poverty-stricken family and was killed on Sunday.
The second boy was aged 16, according to details released by the governor of Kandahar, who condemned the killings as inhuman and un-Islamic.
Javed Faisal, his spokesman, said the two had been killed after collecting food from rubbish bins used by the Afghan police and army in the Zhari district, which may have led to suspicions they were spies.
“We condemn this brutal act and will try to arrest those who did it,” he said.
A spokesman for the Taliban denied that the group was responsible and described the killing as a “crime”.
“This is propaganda of the foreign invaders and their Afghan puppets,” he said.
Earlier in the day heavily armed Taliban gunmen – some wearing suicide vests – launched a pre-dawn attack near Kabul’s main airport.
It marked the third time in a month that insurgents had launched such a high-profile attack, part of a strategy designed to undermine the withdrawal of most Nato troops by the end of next year.
Seven militants died during a four-hour gun battle, which saw flights grounded.
Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, said his government would not be deterred.
“These cowardly terrorist attacks on the Afghan people cannot change the chosen path of the Afghan people toward progress, development, peace and elections,” he said, referring to elections due in the spring.
The Taliban frequently kill those they believe are providing information to international forces but often deny any involvement, particularly when children are involved.
A 12-year-old boy was beheaded last year in a Taliban-controlled area of the country, apparently because his older brother was a member of the Afghan police, which is trained by the US
Last year, militants beheaded 15 men and two women in Helmand province, apparently for dancing together at a party although other reports suggested they may also have been accused of informing on the Taliban.