This sickening image shows armed Taliban militants standing over decapitated heads which they claim belong to soldiers they killed in clashes on the Pakistan border.
The Pakistani Taliban released a video showing what appeared to be the severed heads of a dozen soldiers today as security officials said 15 troops were missing following fighting with insurgents.
The clashes on Tuesday came as part of a Pakistan army operation to repel Taliban militants who had crossed over from Kunar province in Afghanistan last Friday and occupied the village of Batwar in the Bajaur tribal district.
‘At least 15 of our soldiers are still missing,’ a senior security official told AFP.
Another security official said ‘more or less’ that many soldiers were missing but declined to give the exact total.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Sirajud Din sent AFP a video showing a militant commander posing with 12 heads arranged on the ground which he claimed were from soldiers they had killed.
‘Praise be to God that the mujahideen in Bajaur agency have managed to kill the infidel soldiers of Pakistan,’ he says.
‘Many of them were killed by bullets, 12 of them as you see have been beheaded, you see 12 heads here, and more heads are on the way.’ The commander, his face unmasked and wearing traditional tribal dress, is flanked in the footage by around a dozen armed men including one wielding a huge axe.
The video showed belongings from the dead men laid out on a sheet, including Pakistani identity cards, camouflage pattern helmets, Pakistani currency, mobile phones and bank cards.
Military sources have so far not said whether they are the missing soldiers or confirmed that those shown in the video are Pakistani troops.
The speaker said they had been killed to avenge ‘brutalities’ carried out by Pakistani troops.
In July the TTP released a video showing the heads of 17 Pakistani soldiers they claimed to have killed in a cross-border attack on a checkpost in the northwestern district of Upper Dir.
Intelligence officials blamed that attack on loyalists of Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who fled to Afghanistan after losing control of the Swat valley to the army.
Fighting in Bajaur in the past week has claimed at least 50 lives, including 31 militants and two members of a government-backed peace committee who were killed on Monday.
Last week, a NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed a Pakistani Taliban leader who had close ties with al Qaeda, dealing a blow to the militants who operate on both sides of the countries’ porous border.
Mullah Dadullah was killed on Friday in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, which lies just across the border from the Pakistani tribal area of Bajur, the military alliance said.
He was the Pakistani Taliban leader in Bajur, and NATO said Saturday that Dadullah also was responsible for the movement of fighters and weapons across the frontier as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Bajaur is one of seven districts in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, where Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds used to plot attacks on Pakistan.
Pakistan has lost more than 3,000 soldiers in the fight against homegrown insurgents but has resisted US pressure to do more to eliminate havens used by those fighting the Americans in Afghanistan.