Map showing Zabul province, Afghanistan
Map showing Zabul province, Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the beheading of a group of civilians by Islamic State militants in a southern region, scene of recent deadly clashes between rival Taliban factions. 

Local police in Zabul province reported Sunday that IS fighters brutally murdered seven people, including three women, in the Khake-e-Afghan district.

President Ghani said in a statement Monday he “condemns in the strongest terms the beheading of civilians, especially women and a child…and considers that atrocious act a sign of desperation and defeat of the enemies of the people of Afghanistan."

Afghan officials say the IS militants kidnapped the victims, members of Shi’ite Hazara ethnic group, more than a month ago from the neighboring Ghazni province.

The president said in the statement that he will hold "an extraordinary security meeting" Monday to seek ways for tracking down and punishing the perpetrators of this atrocious crime."

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani talks during
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani talks during a press conference at presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 1, 2015. Ghani condemned the beheadings 'in the strongest terms.'

IS, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, has been slowly increasing its presence in Afghanistan and has established strong bases in several districts in the eastern Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan.

Officials in Zabul province also say that fighting between rival Taliban factions has left least 50 people dead on both sides and wounded dozens more.

The deadly clashes came just days after several senior Taliban commanders broke from the main insurgent group and elected Mullah Mohammad Rasool as their chief.

The splinter faction is opposed to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who assumed power after the disclosure in late July that the long-time Taliban chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for more than two years.