Afghan defense minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim said the killing of 11 Chinese workers in Afghanistan's Kunduz province Thursday was the work of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their allies, but the Taliban denied the accusation.
Fahim -- who has assumed the responsibilities of President Hamid Karzai while Karzai is in the United States -- said in a statement that "the network of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their allies are behind the incident."
He said he was "deeply distressed" by the tragedy and strongly condemned the killing.
It was a "cruel act of terror" and "an inhumane act of those who try to place obstacles in the way of the reconstruction of Afghanistan," he said.
Fahim has sent a high-ranking delegation to Kunduz province to investigate the worst attack on foreigners in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Denying the accusation, the group's spokesman Hamid Agha told Associated Press in a satellite call from an undisclosed location: "It doesn't have any link with the Taliban."
Special Representative of UN Secretary General to Afghanistan Jean Arnault also strongly condemned the killing.
"The special representative is appalled by the killing of 11 Chinese construction workers last night on the outskirts of Kunduz and condemns it in the strongest possible terms," Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told journalists here.
The workers were killed in a terrorist attack carried out by a group of some 20 unknown armed men at the compound of Chinese workers on a construction site 36 km south of Kunduz province at around 01:00 a.m. local time (2030 GMT Wednesday) on Thursday.
Around 100 workers were at the site. Many of them came from eastern China's Shandong province and had only arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Arnault noted with great sadness that this tragedy follows other serious incidents against electoral and humanitarian aid workers on May 5 in Nuristan and on June 2 and 6 in Badghis and Paktya in which eight Afghans and expatriates were killed.
Arnault also conveyed his condolences and expressed his sympathy to the Chinese Government and to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the incident in Kunduz but the fugitive leaders of the Taliban and their allies have vowed to disrupt any rebuilding activities run under US influence in the post-Taliban nation.