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Afghan beheaded by 'guests': official

world Updated: Feb 08, 2009 19:33 IST

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Unknown men beheaded a provincial government official in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province on Sunday after entering his house as "guests", an official said.

The motive for the killing in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah was not known, Helmand government spokesman Daud Ahmadi told AFP.

But he blamed the murder of provincial refugee department chief Abdul Satar Mazhari on the "enemies" of Afghanistan, a term Afghan officials use to refer to Taliban insurgents and other militants.

"Several men went to his house as guests," Ahmadi said. "After they entered the house, they attacked Mazhari and chopped his head off."

The attackers then fled, he said. "At this point we don't know who they were and why they killed him. Whoever, they are the enemies of the country."

The Taliban, who control several districts of Helmand, have previously beheaded other people, including hostages, in a campaign of intimidation and fear that targets Afghans working for the government or international groups.

Ethnic and tribal rivalries and crime, including that associated with Helmand's booming opium trade, also play a part in the wave of violence that has engulfed the country.

The Taliban are the main militant group behind an insurgency to topple the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and oust tens of thousands of international troops trying to bring security to the fragile country.