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Taliban militants have killed 17 captured Afghan soldiers in the far northeast in one of the deadliest single attacks on local forces in recent years, officials said on Wednesday.
The men were taken hostage in Badakhshan on Saturday while guarding a convoy. Their bodies were discovered by local people in the relatively peaceful mountainous province, which borders Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
"The enemy have executed 17 soldiers whose bodies were found last night," provincial deputy police chief Sayed Jahangir Keramat said. "Seven other soldiers were released in exchange for some Taliban prisoners."
The attack came as local forces take over responsibility for tackling the Taliban from the NATO-led military coalition.
"Last night locals found 17 bullet-riddled bodies of Afghan soldiers in Warduj district," Abdul Marouf Rasekh, spokesman for the provincial governor, told AFP, confirming several others had been released after talks led by tribal elders.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack but said the deaths had occurred during fighting rather than after the soldiers had been captured.
"The soldiers were all killed in the battlefield," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement sent to AFP.
"A huge amount of munitions and two vehicles were also seized," he added.