At least 30 civilians have been killed across Afghanistan. Among them were 17 civilians who were reportedly beheaded by Taliban insurgents for holding a party.
The 15 men and two women were reportedly killed by Taliban militias in a remote Afghan village in Helmand province on Sunday night.
"I can confirm that this is the work of the Taliban," said a spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor. "Two women and 15 men were beheaded. They were partying with music in an area under the control of the Taliban."
The Afghan Interior Ministry issued a statement on Monday, calling the beheadings an "inhumane and cowardly act of the enemies of peace and stability."
Taliban insurgents in the region have in the past been blamed for such beheadings, which they have carried out on people they suspect of having spied for Afghan and NATO forces.
Meanwhile two US soldiers were shot dead by a rogue Afghan comrade on Monday in the latest in a string of insider killings. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that the troops were in the eastern province of Laghman.
"ISAF troops returned fire, killing the ANA (Afghan National Army) soldier who committed the attack," the statement said.
This year has so far seen 33 insider attacks resulting in the deaths of 42 coalition personnel. This represents a sharp rise in comparison with 2011, where 35 coalition troops, including 24 Americans, were killed in such incidents.
NATO has now increased security against insider attacks, among other things requiring soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all times on base.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey last week visited Kabul to urge Afghan officials to take tougher preventive action.
Bloody 24 hours
Afghanistan's government on Wednesday accused "foreign spies" of instigating the attacks, but said it would reexamine the files of 350,000 soldiers and police in a bid to curb the killings, which have eroded trust between the NATO-Afghan allies.
Following Dempsey's visit, it also said it would improve vetting of army and police recruits.
The deaths in the US ranks come after 10 Afghan soldiers died in an attack by Taliban insurgents in southern Helmand province before dawn on Monday. Four others were wounded.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on an army checkpoint, saying they had killed 16 soldiers and seized large amounts of arms and ammunition.
ccp,tj/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)