In a stadium packed with thousands of onlookers, a woman dressed in an all-enveloping burqa was shot to death today in the first public execution of a woman since Afghanistan's Taliban rulers took control three years ago.

The woman, who was identified only as Zareena, a mother of seven children, was convicted of beating her husband to death with a steel hammer as he slept. A Taliban soldier said the reason for the slaying two years ago was a "family dispute."

Zareena was brought to the sports stadium in the back of a pickup truck dressed in a pale blue burqa, a bulky Islamic cloak that covered her from head to toe.

Witnesses said she walked slowly to the center of the field, and was ordered to sit.

A young Taliban soldier stood behind her and took aim with his Kalashnikov rifle. Suddenly Zareena stood up and tried to flee, but was stopped by a policewoman, who forced her to sit down again. The soldier moved closer and shot her three times.

After the killing, shouts of "God is great!" were heard in the stadium, which was packed with men and women, many of whom had brought their children.