The shooting deaths of two American soldiers in Kabul by an Afghan colleague are under investigation, with Afghan officials are saying it was an accident. NBC's Atia Abawi reports.
Updated at 11:25 a.m. ET: KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the Taliban on Monday of beheading 17 villagers, including two women, in volatile Helmand province, in a gruesome attack recalling the dark days of the hardline group's rule before their 2001 ouster.
He ordered a full investigation into the "mass killing," which a local official said was punishment to revelers attending a party with music and mixed-sex dancing.
"This attack shows that there are irresponsible members among the Taliban," Karzai said in a statement.
In a separate incident, a rogue Afghan soldier killed two American troops in eastern Laghman, the NATO-led coalition said; 10 Afghan army soldiers were also killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Helmand, the Afghan government said.
The Taliban denied they had taken part in the beheadings, which Karzai's office said took place in Kajaki district in the southern province.
"The victims were killed for throwing a late night dancing and music party when the Taliban attacked," Nimatullah, governor for neighboring Musa Qala district, told Reuters.
NBC's Richard Engel discusses the troop "surge" in Afghanistan -- something touted as a success by the military but questioned by many Afghans and also some in the U.S. who worry the troops will leave in 2014 with Afghanistan as a failed state.
The beheaded bodies were found in a house near the Musa Qala district, about 46 miles north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, said Nimatullah, who only goes by one name.
The attack involving gunfire happened Sunday in a Taliban-controlled area of the province, the Interior Ministry told The Associated Press.
In ultra-conservative Afghanistan, men and women do not usually mingle unless they are related, and parties involving both genders together are rare and highly secretive affairs.
For the Taliban, flirting, open displays of affection and the mixing of men and women are vehemently condemned.
According to witnesses of a major attack that killed 20 near Kabul in June, Taliban gunmen stormed a high-end hotel demanding to know where the "prostitutes and pimps" were.
During their five-year reign, which was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, sparking the present NATO-led war, the Taliban banned women from voting, holding most jobs and leaving their home unaccompanied by their husband or a male relative.
Though those rights have been painstakingly regained, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places on earth to be a woman.
American soldiers shot
The two U.S. troops killed in east Afghanistan on Monday were the latest in a series of insider killings that have strained trust between the allies ahead of a 2014 pullout by foreign combat troops.
The deaths in Laghman province brought to 12 the number of foreign soldiers killed this month, prompting NATO to increase security against insider attacks, including requiring soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all times on base.
General Martin Dempsey was not on board at the time of the rocket attack, but the damage forced him to use another plane for Tuesday's flight to Iraq. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
The deaths also come a week after U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey visited Kabul to talk about rogue shootings and urge Afghan officials to take tougher preventative action.
"ISAF troops returned fire, killing the ANA (Afghan National Army) soldier who committed the attack,'' the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
There have been 33 insider attacks so far this year that have led to 42 coalition deaths. That is a sharp increase from 2011, when, during the whole year, 35 coalition troops were killed in such attacks, 24 of whom were American.
Afghan soldiers killed
On Sunday, insurgents killed 10 Afghan soldiers and wounded four in an attack on a checkpoint in volatile southern Helmand province, provincial officials said.
MSNBC's Thomas Roberts talks to NBC's Atia Abawi and NBC Military Analyst General Barry McCaffery about the new military offensive against insurgents in Afghanistan.
Ahmadi, the provincial government spokesman, said insurgents attacked the checkpoint in Washir district Sunday evening.
Ahmadi did not provide details of the attack. He added that that the five missing soldiers left with their assailants but it was unclear if they were kidnapped or went voluntarily.
NBC News' Atia Abawi, and Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More world stories from NBC News:
- Botched restoration turns Spanish church into tourist attraction
- Afghan sources: Top Haqqani commander killed
- Bulldozer wrecks Sufi mosque and graves in Libya sectarian attack
- Dozens killed, hurt in Venezuela oil refinery explosion
- Syria VP Al-Sharaa appears in public, ending defection rumor