KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - The Afghan authorities on Monday accused Taleban militants of beheading two children for spying, but insurgency leaders denied the gruesome charges.
The boys, aged 10 and 16, were beheaded on Sunday in the southern province of Kandahar after they collected leftover food from a police post, provincial police spokesman Ghorzang Afridi told Agence France-Presse.
"The children used to go to a police checkpoint to collect food and other things thrown away by police, so the Taleban thought they were spies and abducted them and beheaded them," Mr Afridi said.
"They were poor children who lived on collecting scraps and leftovers," he added, saying that villagers found the two boys' bodies in a remote area of Zhari district and informed the police.
Kandahar provincial spokesman Javid Faisal confirmed the incident, but the Taleban denied any role in the children's deaths.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse from an undisclosed location, Taleban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi dismissed the allegations as government propaganda and condemned the murders.
"The government does this to distract from attacks such as in Kabul this morning," Mr Ahmadi said, referring to a Taleban strike on the capital's airport earlier on Monday.
Seven Taleban insurgents launched a grenade and gun attack on the airport, firing at military buildings before being overwhelmed by Afghan security forces.
No civilians or security forces were killed, but flights were cancelled or delayed for several hours.
Two of the attackers blew themselves up and five others were killed when elite Afghan troops stormed the half-built mansions where the militants were holed up near the airport's perimeter fence.
Also on Monday, six militants used a truck bomb to attack a provincial council building and voter registration centre in the southern province of Zabul.
All the attackers were killed and three police officers and 15 civilians were wounded, officials said.
Last August the Taleban beheaded 17 partygoers, including two women, who were holding a gathering with music in Helmand province.
The insurgents have in the past been blamed for beheading scores of local villagers, mostly over charges of spying for Afghan and United States-led Nato military forces.