Kandahar, Afghanistan Suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed a border patrol in the desert near the frontier with Pakistan, killing and beheading 10 Afghan soldiers, a provincial governor said Sunday. Violence elsewhere left 15 rebels and soldiers dead.
The 25-member patrol was attacked Saturday in southern Helmand province by militants driving four four-wheel-drive pickups, said provincial Gov. Sher Mohammed Aghunzada.
The insurgents killed 10 soldiers, and 15 - including three who were wounded - fled the ambush, Aghunzada said.
"The Taliban cut the heads off all the soldiers who were killed," he said. Aghunzada said the dead soldiers' bodies had been recovered.
He said the assailants launched the assault after driving across the border from Pakistan and returned across the frontier. The border is unguarded in that remote area.
Twelve other Afghan soldiers were killed Sunday when a land mine blew up under their vehicle in Paktika province, also near the border with Pakistan, provincial deputy police chief Ghulam Nabi said.
He said it wasn't clear if the mine was one of hundreds of thousands of old mines left over from a quarter century of fighting, or had been newly planted.
Also on Sunday in fighting in southern Kandahar province, three suspected rebels were killed after attacking a government convoy on the main highway linking the region to the Pakistani border, frontier security chief Gen. Abdul Raziq Khan said.
The news of the decapitations 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.
The commando is the last of a four-member elite military team missing in the province. One of the men was rescued and the other two were found dead.
The Navy SEAL team went missing after a special forces helicopter carrying reinforcements to the mountainous area was shot down, killing all 16 Americans on board, the deadliest single attack on the U.S. military since the war here began in 2001.
There have been few beheadings in Afghanistan since the war began to oust the Taliban, and the brutal method of killing captives is seen as more common among Arab militants.
In the Helmand ambush, the assailants launched the assault after driving across the border, which is unguarded in remote area, from Pakistan and then returning across the frontier afterward, 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 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
Pakistan vehemently denies the charges. Officials boast that they have stationed tens of thousands of troops along the border and arrested more than 700 al-Qaida suspects.
In the capital Sunday, a rocket slammed into the center of Kabul, exploding on a roadside near the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions, but there were no casualties and little damage to nearby buildings.