At a wedding ceremony in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, three people were shot dead after a dispute broke out over whether to play music, local residents said.
Ten others were injured in the attack on Friday that followed a confrontation between the attackers and residents of Sarkharod city, two residents told NBC News.
The two said they recognized the armed men as local Taliban members.
The gunmen were “tough in their arguments with the married family and local residents,” said one Sarkharod resident on condition of anonymity, fearing that the Taliban would kill him if he spoke openly to the press speak.
“Their arguments resulted in an armed clash,” he said, adding that the armed men “opened fire and killed three people and injured ten others,” he added.
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied in a statement on Saturday that the attackers were members of the group. But he confirmed that three armed men killed three people and injured ten after demanding that a wedding party in Nangarhar stop making music.
The Taliban had arrested one person and efforts were being made to arrest the other two attackers, he said.
Separately, however, a member of the Taliban’s intelligence agency told NBC News that the attackers were members of the group. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media.
The Taliban returned to power in August after falling out of power after the Sept. refused to reveal the whereabouts of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Despite promises of moderation since the resumption Control of the Country, the group that set up an interim government last month, has unleashed broad and sometimes brutal crackdowns to force many Afghans to hold on to their strict interpretations of Islam.
Journalists were beaten at work, girls were told not to go to school until conditions allowed their return, and hundreds of Hazara families were forcibly evicted from their homes, raising fears that an ethnic minority may have fallen out of favor Taliban regime targeted, persecuted again.
There is currently no official music ban in Afghanistan, but the Taliban have launched an awareness campaign to explain to people that listening to music is against Sharia or Islamic law, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Saturday.
“In some places, our Taliban members use violence to prevent people from listening to music, but we try to avoid such incidents,” he said.
In contrast, two senior Taliban leaders in Kabul told NBC News that music is banned in Afghanistan and that anyone who violates the restrictions will be “treated” under Sharia law.
Taliban leaders, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity for not having the authority to brief the press, did not disclose the punishment for listening to or playing music.
Music was banned when the Taliban imposed brutal rule over Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, which too saw minorities attacked and women deprived of almost all rights. The hands of the thieves were cut off and the adulterers were stoned.
Over the next two decades, freedom improved dramatically in many – mostly urban – parts of the country. Women returned to the office and girls returned to the classroom. Traditional and modern music was also played frequently.
Many Afghans continue to desperately try to leave the country, which is facing food shortages, fearing that if the Taliban consolidates control, restrictions on personal freedoms will only be tightened.