ISLAMABAD - The United Nations says it is looking into reports insurgents have massacred dozens of people, mostly civilians, in northern Afghanistan in recent days.
Local authorities say the incident took place Saturday after the Taliban attacked and overran Mirza Olang village in the province of Sar-e Pul.
The provincial governor accused the Islamist insurgency of torching houses of civilians and killing more than 40 people, including women and children.
The victims belonged to the minority Shi’ite Hazara community and some of them were reportedly beheaded.
“Our inquiries are ongoing,” a spokesperson for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told VOA Monday. Liam McDowall added the mission is seeking clarity on "a range of important matters" before issuing public remarks on the incident.
A Taliban spokesman has rejected the official claims as “baseless enemy propaganda,” saying the group had nothing to do with the incident.
The village is part of the Sayaad district where Islamic State militants are also fighting Afghan security forces.
Some provincial officials say Taliban and IS fighters jointly attacked the villagers.
The Taliban rejected the allegations, saying it considers IS an enemy force and asserted the militants are not present in the Afghan province.
Afghan officials in Kabul say that reinforcements are being dispatched to the conflict zone to evict the Taliban from the area.
Hostilities have intensified across Afghanistan this year, with civilians bearing the brunt of the conflict, according to UNAMA.
The agency documented around 1,700 deaths of Afghan civilians in conflict-related incidents and injuries to nearly 3,600, in the first half of 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is working on a new strategy for Afghanistan to try to help Afghan security forces reverse insurgent gains and improve national security.
The strategy, however is facing delays in the wake of reported divisions over how to conduct and win the longest war in U.S. history.
Last week, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mike Pompeo, made an unannounced visit to Kabul for more talks with President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan officials on bilateral cooperation.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah informed a routine ministerial council meeting about the CIA chief’s visit but gave no further details.
The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, announced Monday that Alice Wells, the acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, concluded a two-day visit to Kabul.
She met with Ghani, Abdullah and other top government officials to discuss issues of mutual importance and bilateral cooperation, the statement said.
“Ambassador Wells underscored U.S. support for Afghanistan’s economic and political modernization, stability, and efforts to promote national reconciliation,” it added.