The Taliban beheaded 17 party-goers, including two women dancers, in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province as punishment, recalling the darkest days of rule by the ultra-conservative Islamist insurgents before their ouster in 2001.
The bodies were found on Monday in a house near the Musa Qala district where a party was held Sunday night with music and mixed-sex dancing, said district governor Nimatullah Khan.
"I can confirm that this is the work of the Taliban," the Helmand provincial governor's spokesman Daud Ahmadi said.
"Two women and 15 men were beheaded. They were partying with music in an area under the control of the Taliban," he said.
The hardliners were notorious during their rule for public executions and the suppression of music and parties.
Men and women do not usually mingle in Afghanistan unless they are related, and parties involving both genders are rare and kept secret.
The killings, about 75km north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, came at the beginning of a violent 24 hours for Nato and Afghan authorities in which 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in a mass insurgent attack, also in Helmand, while two US soldiers were slain by a rogue Afghan soldier.
During their five-year reign, which was toppled by US-backed Afghan forces, sparking the present Nato-led war, the Taliban banned women from voting, most work and leaving their homes unaccompanied by a male relative.