Taliban Islamists beheaded 17 civilians for holding a party that included music and dancing. The atrocity occurred near Zamindawar village in the district of Musa Qala.
According to the Times of India, Daud Ahmadi, the spokesperson for Helmand's provincial governor, said of the killings:
I can confirm that this is the work of the Taliban.
However, the Daily Telegraph points out that the Taliban have not yet claimed responsibility.
It is not yet known whether the men and women were killed before their heads were cut off. As the provincial governor's spokesperson, Daud Ahmadi, explained, the investigation is being hampered by the Taliban's control of the area and the lack of telephone reception.
Men and woman, as the Guardian reports, do not generally mix in Afghanistan unless they are related. For the Taliban open displays of affection between men and woman are sinful. Mixed parties are therefore highly secretive affairs.
Bloomberg reported that Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior Affairs condemned the killings as "inhumane and cowardly".
The latest killings will add to the concerns of many observers that withdrawal of international forces will see a return to the imposition of Sharia that was applied during in the Taliban's rule between 1996 and 2001.