30 Sep 2010

Pakistan execution video causes US tension

Controversy breaks out between the US and Pakistan after a video emerges on the internet appearing to show Pakistani soldiers summarily executing people believed to be Pashtun militants.

Pakistan execution video causes US tension

The five-minute video, which has not been authenticated, appears to show six blindfolded people being shot by a firing squad of men dressed in Pakistan army uniforms. One of the alleged soldiers then shoots the bodies for a second time while they lay on the ground.

It is not clear where or when the mobile phone footage was captured but groups, such as the Pashtuns’ International Association who posted the footage on Facebook, have suggested the video was taken in the Swat Valley area of north Pakistan.

If the video’s authenticity is verified, it could have serious implications for international relations between the US and Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities have dismissed the footage as “fake”, but unnamed American officials said it appeared to be credible, according to the New York Times.

Senior US officials have reportedly raised the issue with Pakistan authorities and the US State Department said it was investigating the footage.

“We are determined to investigate it”, spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Pakistan army officials said the footage was part of a propaganda campaign aimed at smearing the army and destroying hearts and minds.

“No Pakistan army soldier or officer has been involved in activity of this sort”, Major General Athar Abbass told the New York Times.

Last year the Pakistan army regained control over fiercely contested Swat Valley. The operation was financially supported by the United States who has urged Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda activity in the country and border areas next to neighbouring Afghanistan.

Since 2001 the US army has spent more than $10bn funding the Pakistan army and its counterinsurgency mission.

According to US defence law financing foreign militaries can be cut off if that country is found to have committed human rights abuses.

Earlier this year a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the Pakistani army for carrying out more than 200 extrajudicial killings of people in Swat Valley.

An HRW report documented cases where members of the army allegedly took away Taliban suspects who were later found dead. The claims were denied by the military.

Pakistan today blocked a vital supply line for Nato after three Pakistani soldiers were killed by a helicopter strike on the border.

The blockade, if it becomes permanent, could have serious consequences between Nato forces in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. The closure has meant a queue of Nato vehicles are waiting to cross the border.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said after the attack: “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies”.

The move comes after an increase in attacks on militants on the border regions. Earlier this week Channel 4 News learned that six militants were killed after two Nato helicopters fired on a vehicle inside Pakistan territory.

According to reports last Friday US attack helicopters killed 30 people inside Pakistan during what is described as a “hot pursuit” mission.