HERAT (Reuters) - Two people were beheaded in western Afghanistan on Monday, a week after they were kidnapped with 33 others for apparently supporting the Afghan government, and a police chief in the south of the country was killed by a bomb, officials said.
The beheaded bodies were sent back to their families in Mughul Abad village in western Farah province, a day after 16 of those kidnapped had been released, said village elder Hajji Saydo January The fate of the rest of the group was unclear.
“These people are ordinary people in the village, but the kidnappers said they had a connection with the government,” Saydo Jan told Reuters by phone.
The Taliban said it had no information about the kidnappings, which officials said took place on July 11.
Provincial security official Abdul Rashid confirmed that two people had been beheaded and 16 people released. He also said another person had been killed on the same day of the kidnapping.
The incident comes as foreign troops begin to hand over security control to Afghan security forces.
On Sunday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) handed security control over to Afghan forces in central Bamiyan province, marking the start of a gradual transition process that will end with all foreign combat troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The first half of this year was the deadliest six months for civilians in the last decade of conflict in Afghanistan, with nearly 1,500 killed, the United Nations said in a recent report.
Officials from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross said last week that civilians were under increasing pressure to choose sides in the decade-long war, putting their security more at risk.
On Monday, the police chief for Registaan district and three policemen were also killed by a roadside bomb in the volatile southern province of Kandahar, the provincial government’s media office posted on Twitter.
There were a record 11,826 security incidents in the first half of 2011, according to the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, up from 8,242 in the same period last year and more than double the first half of 2009.
While the southern and southeastern provinces of Afghanistan accounted for nearly two-thirds of the incidents between January and June 2011, the western region experienced the highest monthly growth rate, the department said.
Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni in KABUL, writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa