Taleban fighters have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan this year
Taleban insurgents have killed at least 27 people travelling on buses in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
A Taleban spokesman said that all those killed in the attacks on three buses were Afghan government soldiers, but officials said they were civilians.
The attacks happened on Thursday but the bodies have only just been found, dumped over a wide area.
A number of the men were beheaded after the attack in the Maiwand district, local and military sources say.
A Taleban spokesman said its fighters had boarded the buses travelling on the province's main highway, removed men identified as soldiers and shot them.
Afghan officials said all the victims were civilians as soldiers travel in military convoys or by plane.
Kandahar province has seen fierce fighting in recent months.
The Afghan army and international forces are fighting a counter-insurgency campaign against anti-government forces in the south of the country, the BBC's Martin Patience reports from the capital, Kabul.
The casualty figures could not be independently verified.
According to police in Kandahar, the militants failed to stop one bus, after which they opened fire, killing a child aboard the vehicle.
Stopping another bus carrying about 50 people, they killed 24 of those aboard and freed the rest, Kandahar police chief Matiullah Qateh was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
He added that women and children were aboard the buses involved in the attack.
An Afghan defence ministry spokesman, Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying a total of 31 people were killed.
Six of the dead were found beheaded in an area away from where the others were shot, the general explained. A village elder also said some of the dead had been decapitated.
Taleban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP news agency that those killed were soldiers en route to Helmand province.
"We found government documents on them and we killed 27 of them," he said. "The rest, who were civilians, we freed."