Video Hints at Executions by Pakistanis
By JANE PERLEZ
The authenticity of the five-and-a-half-minute video, which shows the killing of the six men — some of whom appear to be teenagers, blindfolded, with their hands bound behind their backs — has not been formally verified by the American government. The Pakistani military said it was faked by militants.
But American officials, who did not want to be identified because of the explosive nature of the video, said it appeared to be credible, as did retired American military officers and intelligence analysts who have viewed it.
After viewing the graphic video on Wednesday, an administration official said: “There are things you can fake, and things you can’t fake. You can’t fake this.”
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, who was in Islamabad on Wednesday on a previously scheduled visit, was expected to raise the subject of the video with the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the Pakistani spy agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, American officials said.
The video adds to reports under review at the State Department and the Pentagon that Pakistani Army units have summarily executed prisoners and civilians in areas where they have opened offensives against the Taliban, administration officials said.
The video appears to have been taken in the Swat Valley, where the Pakistani military opened a campaign last year to push back Taliban insurgents. The effort was widely praised by American officials and financed in large part by the
The reports could have serious implications for relations between the militaries. American law requires that the
But never has that law been applied to so strategic a partner as Pakistan, whose military has received more than $10 billion in American support since 2001 for its cooperation in fighting militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda based inside the country.
The State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, called the images “horrifying.” He said the American ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, had raised the issue with the Pakistani government and was awaiting a response. “We are determined to investigate it,” he said.
The spokesman for the Pakistani Army, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, dismissed the video as part of a propaganda campaign by jihadists to defame the Pakistani Army. “No
A senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who declined to be named, dismissed the video as a staged “drama.”
The Pakistani military came under strong pressure from the
The video, apparently taken surreptitiously with a cellphone, shows six young men being lined up near an abandoned building surrounded by foliage. As the soldiers prepare to shoot, one soldier asks the commander, a heavily bearded man with the short hair typical of a military haircut: “One by one, or together?” He replies, “Together.”
A burst of gunfire erupts. The young men crumple to the ground. Some, still alive and wounded, groan. Then a soldier approaches the heap of bodies, and fires rounds into each man at short range to finish the job.
The men doing the shooting wear Pakistani Army uniforms and appear to be using G-3 rifles, standard issue for the Pakistani Army and rarely used by insurgents, according to several Pakistanis who watched the video.
The soldiers also speak Urdu, the language of the Pakistani Army, and use the word “Sahib” when addressing their commander, a polite form for Mr., which is uncommon among the Taliban.
The question of extrajudicial killings is particularly sensitive for Pentagon officials, who have tried in visits to
But growing word of such incidents in recent months has led to an internal debate at the State Department and the Pentagon over whether the reports are credible enough to warrant cutting off funds to Pakistani Army units, American officials said.
Not least of the concerns is keeping the Pakistani Army as an ally. Pentagon officials, already frustrated at Pakistan’s refusal to take on Taliban militants who cross into Afghanistan to fight American forces, fear that raising the question of human rights will sour the relationship.
“What if the Pakistanis walk away — is there any option?” was a question uppermost at the Pentagon, a senior administration official involved in the debate said.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and sponsor of the law that would require withholding money, said Wednesday that anyone who had seen the video would “be shocked.”
If the video was found to be authentic, the law could be imposed, he said.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, raised the reports of extrajudicial killings with the head of the Pakistani Army, General Kayani, in meetings this year, a senior administration official said.
One unresolved question, the official said, was how seriously General Kayani took the killings, and whether he was willing to punish the soldiers involved.
Some reports, particularly from
“There is a particular set of incidents that have been investigated with great accuracy, and, we believe, lead to a pattern,” the official said.
The State Department briefed members of the Senate about the issue this summer, and was set to do so again next month, an indication of the rising concern on Capitol Hill, according to one Congressional staff member.
The episode in the video may be just the most glaring to surface. The Pakistani military is believed to have detained as many as 3,000 people in makeshift prisons in the region of its operations. Reluctant to turn them over to
The Human Rights Commission of
A Pakistani intelligence official, who did not want to be identified discussing the issue, said he had seen other such videos and heard reports of executions larger than the one in the video, which was posted on the Facebook page of a group that calls itself the Pashtuns’ International Association.
Two retired Pakistani senior army officers said they believed that the video was credible.
“It’s authentic,” said Javed Hussain, a former Special Forces brigadier. “They are soldiers in Swat. The victims appear to be militants or their sympathizers.” The executioners were infantry soldiers, he said. “It’s shocking, not expected of a professional, disciplined force.”
A retired lieutenant general, Talat Masood, also said the video seemed credible. “It will have a serious setback in the effort for winning the hearts and minds so crucial in this type of warfare,” he said.
A Pakistani employee of The New York Times contributed reporting.