A 30-year-old woman and two of her children were beheaded overnight in Afghanistan's east, police said, in what appeared to be the latest in a rapidly growing trend of so-called honour killings.
Police said they suspected the woman Serata's divorced husband of forcing his way into her house in the capital of Ghazni province and murdering her, alongside their eight-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.
Activists say there has been a sharp rise in violent attacks on women in Afghanistan over the past year.
Human rights organisations blame President Hamid Karzai's waning attention to women's rights as his government prepares for the exit of most foreign troops in 2014 and seeks to negotiate with the Taliban, Afghanistan's former Islamist rulers.
Not counting Serata's beheading, there have been 16 cases of so-called ‘honour killings’ recorded across the country over March and April. This compares to the 20 cases recorded for all of last year, which has been blamed on increased insecurity and weak rule of law.
Serata divorced her husband Mohammad Arif, 38, a year ago after enduring almost a decade of domestic abuse, said Shukria Wali, head of Ghazni's department of women's affairs, which is attached to the ministry in Kabul.
Police said they are still hunting for Arif. Violent crimes against women often go unpunished in Afghanistan, with activists blaming police carelessness, corruption and a growing atmosphere of impunity.
Officers investigating the case described it as an honour killing - a phrase used to describe the murder of mostly women and girls by people who accuse them of damaging a family's reputation.
Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and work since the austere rule of the Taliban was toppled just over a decade ago, though fear now mounts that freedoms will be traded away as Kabul and Washington seek talks with the Islamist group to secure a peaceful end to the war.