About 50 people have been shot and killed in a village in a remote part of Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Islamic State have a presence. The attackers are believed to be a mixed group of Taliban and "IS" militants.
Most of the dead were members of the largely Shi'ite Hazara community, Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told the news agency Reuters, adding that the attackers had torched 30 houses.
"They were killed in a brutal, inhumane way," he said. Seven members of the Afghan security forces were also killed, he added.
Amani said the attackers were a mixed group of Taliban and so-called "Islamic State" (IS).
The governor of Sar-e Pul, Mohammad Zaher Wahdat said several mosques had been set ablaze and an unknown number of villagers had also been taken hostage after a 48-hour battle between insurgents and Afghan security forces.
He said 12 insurgents and seven Afghan troops had been killed in the fighting.
"[They were] in the province's predominately Shiite village of Mirzawalang after insurgents captured it on Saturday," Wahdat, said.
"This barbaric act by them is deemed a direct violation of human rights and a war crime," Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.
Taliban deny deaths
The Taliban denied any involvement, dismissing the claim as propaganda.
It confirmed in a statement that it had captured Mirzawalang but rejected reports of civilians casualties, calling it "hollow propaganda by the enemy."
The incident comes after the Afghan government claimed last month that Taliban fighters had killed 35 people in an attack on a hospital in central Ghor province.
In the first half of the year 1,662 civilians were killed and 3,581 injured, according to United Nations figures.
A senior government official in Kabul said that security forces, including Afghan Air Force attack aircraft, were being sent to the scene.
The Taliban killed two US soldiers in a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar on Wednesday.
jbh/bw (AFP, Reuters)