The Taliban has claimed that it has killed eight foreigners and their two Afghan interpreters for spreading Christianity.

“These people were preaching Christianity and we punished them,” a Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted as saying.

He added that a number of books and documents found on them proved that they were involved in preaching Christianity. The killed include four women. The driver of the group, however, managed to escape.

Provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kintoz said that the killings took place in Karan-o-Manjan district of Badakshan province in northern Afghanistan, and the bodies were found on Friday.

Apart from the Taliban, the Islamic Party (Hizb-e-Islami), a radical group commanded by the former Prime Minister, Gulbudin Hekmatyar, claimed responsibility for the attack.

It is likely that the victims belonged to the International Assistance Mission (IAM), an organisation that has been functional in Afghanistan since 1966. In a statement, the organisation said that it is likely that the dead were members of its eye care team.

The Associated Press quoted Dirk Frans, director of the IAM as saying that six Americans, one German, one Briton and two Afghans were part of the team. Mr. Frans said the IAM has been registered as a non-profit Christian organisation, which does not engage in proselytising.

A spokeswoman for the American embassy in Kabul said: “We have reason to believe that several American citizens are among the deceased. We cannot confirm any details at this point, but are actively working with local authorities to learn more about the identities and nationalities of these individuals.”

More In: International | News