KABUL -- The Taliban have killed 28 paramilitary policemen in fighting in Uruzgan Province, officials said Wednesday (September 23).
One local official said the Taliban executed the police after they had surrendered.
If proven, a mass shooting of dozens of captives would mark a grim new low point in Afghanistan's recent violence, which has been worsening in recent weeks.
The incident occurred in Gezab District, where intense fighting has raged for days as the Taliban besiege outmanned and outgunned Afghan police and army outposts.
Taliban fighters offered 28 Local and National Police a chance to go home if they surrendered Tuesday (September 22) night, said Zergai Ebadi, a spokesman for the Uruzgan governor.
"But after taking their guns, the Taliban killed them all," Ebadi said.
Provincial Council Chairman Amir Mohammad confirmed the death toll. Heavy fighting was ongoing, he said.
Mohammad would not say if the men had been killed before or after surrendering.
A third local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, put the toll at 28-30 police, adding that three policemen managed to escape.
The Interior Affairs Ministry declined to comment on the circumstances of the deaths.
In a statement, the Taliban denied it had slaughtered the policemen after they surrendered.
"Enemy claims that they were executed after surrender are baseless. Mujahidin (Taliban fighters) repeatedly asked them to lay down arms & end hostility, but they insisted on fighting," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said on Twitter.
The 28 deaths come after at least 14 Afghan police and soldiers were killed during the same battle overnight Sunday-Monday (September 20-21).
Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are meeting in Doha, Qatar, where they are trying to find a way to end 19 years of war.
A hopeful start to the peace talks on September 12 was immediately marred by fresh violence across Afghanistan.
Negotiations are moving slowly, with the two sides trying to iron out various parameters before deciding on an agenda.
"The Afghan people have a clear and urgent priority: a ceasefire. An urgent end to the violence will, more than anything else, give us a chance to progress,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at the United Nations General Assembly September 23.
Doubts about the Taliban keeping to its promises were highlighted again on September 23 when High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah said that a number of Taliban prisoners whom the Afghan government released as a condition for peace talks have taken up arms again -- a direct violation of the agreement brokered with the United States.