KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed an Afghani government border patrol in the desert near the frontier with Pakistan, killing 10 soldiers and beheading their bodies, a provincial governor said Sunday.
The victims served on a 25-member patrol in southern Helmand province that was attacked late Saturday by militants driving four pickup trucks, said provincial Gov. Sher Mohammed Aghunzada. The remaining 15 soldiers escaped.
"The Taliban cut the heads off all the soldiers who were killed," he said. Aghunzada said the dead soldiers” bodies had been recovered.
The news comes a day after a purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, claimed that the rebels had beheaded a U.S. Navy SEAL commando missing since June 28 in mountains in eastern Kunar province, also near the border with Pakistan.
American officials have been skeptical of Hakimi”s claim and U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Cindy Moore said Sunday that the search for the commando was continuing.
Hakimi has offered no proof to back his repeated claims the rebels were holding the commando, or that they had killed him. Information from him in the past has sometimes proven exaggerated or untrue, and his exact tie to the Taliban leadership cannot be independently verified.
There have been few beheadings in Afghanistan since the war began to oust the Taliban, and the method of killing captives is seen as more common among Arab militants than native Afghan fighters.
In Saturday”s ambush, the militants drove across the frontier from Pakistan, attacked the border guards, killed and beheaded them, then retreated back to Pakistan, the governor said.
Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on militants on its side of the frontier. The officials even say privately they believe some elements of the Pakistani army and intelligence network are helping the attackers. Pakistan vehemently denies the charges. Officials there say they have stationed tens of thousands of troops along the border and arrested more than 700 al-Qaida suspects.
Meanwhile, a rocket slammed into the center of Kabul on Sunday, exploding on a roadside near the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions, but there were no casualties and little damage to nearby buildings.