Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2008
Taliban-linked rebels execute 2 Afghans as crowd watches
Thousands cheer as the heads of the men, who were accused of spying for the U.S., are paraded before them.
Zulfiqar Ali and Laura King
In a gruesome public spectacle, Taliban-linked militants on Friday executed two Afghan men accused of spying for the United States, slitting their throats and parading their severed heads before a cheering crowd.
Militants surround the Afghans before they were executed in northwestern Pakistan. After slitting their throats, the rebels paraded their severed heads before the crowd of about 5,000.
The killings, which took place in front of about 5,000 people in the Bajur tribal region, were said to be in retribution for a suspected U.S. missile strike last month targeting Al Qaeda militants.
That strike, in Damadola near the Afghan border, killed at least a dozen people. It was not clear whether a senior Al Qaeda or Taliban figure was the target of the attack, the latest of several such strikes this year believed to have been carried out by U.S. forces.
The dual execution was brutal even by the fundamentalist code that prevails in the tribal areas, which lie largely beyond the jurisdiction of the Pakistani government. The killing of alleged spies is not unusual, but their public parading is rare.
Witnesses said the two men were taken to a gathering place by militants from the Taliban-affiliated Jaish-i-Islami group. Armed men first slit their throats, then sprayed the bodies with bullets from automatic rifles, then decapitated the pair to chants of "God is great!"
In the aftermath, celebratory gunfire killed two people and injured six in the frenzied crowd of onlookers, authorities said.
The militants' local chief, who calls himself Cmdr. Wali Rehman, said the two who were executed had confessed to spying for U.S. forces. He said they had implicated others who also would be brought to justice.
Pakistan's new government has been trying to negotiate peace accords with various militant factions in the tribal areas. No truce has been struck as yet in Bajur, but informal understandings with government forces appear to have given the militants freedom of movement in the area.
The killings come at a time of heightened tensions in Peshawar, the main city in Pakistan's northwest, adjacent to the tribal areas. In the last two days, paramilitary troops have been deployed throughout the city of 4 million after militants made an unprecedented show of force in the heart of Peshawar itself, staging patrols and carrying out abductions.
Abdul Ghafoor Afridi, a senior police officer, said a high security alert had been declared and that government forces were guarding the city perimeter and digging bunkers against possible attack.
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