Video Suggests Pakistani Soldiers Executed 6 Men

An Internet video has surfaced that shows men dressed in Pakistani military uniforms executing six young men. The graphic video shows blindfolded men, with their hands tied behind them, being lined up and then gunned down by what appears to be soldiers in uniform. Jane Perlez of The New York Times, talks to Steve Inskeep about the authenticity of the video.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Pakistan faces questions today, about the methods its army is using to fight insurgents. A cell phone video circulating on the Internet shows men in soldiers' uniforms conducting an execution. It's not been verified that the soldiers are from Pakistan's army, but American officials are expressing concern. Jane Perlez of the New York Times is following this story. She's on the line from Pakistan's capital Islamabad.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. JANE PERLEZ (New York Times): Good morning.

INSKEEP: What do you see when you watch this video?

Ms. PERLEZ: Well, you see some very horrifying images and actions, for about five and a half minutes, of men in uniforms lining up quite young men - some teenagers - in Pakistani plain clothes and then shooting them and the horrific images of the bodies hitting the ground, and several bodies seemingly not killed and some groans. And then one of the soldiers going forward and shooting them all at very close range. It's very gruesome.

INSKEEP: This all seems to be happening in a forest somewhere and captured on a cell phone video. It is obviously not a judicial proceeding of any kind?

Ms. PERLEZ: No, it's not a judicial proceeding.

INSKEEP: Now, does this appear to be an authentic video that really does involve Pakistani soldiers?

Ms. PERLEZ: We showed this to Pakistani retired officers, and we showed it to American retired officers and analysts. And various American officials in the administration have seen it. Two of the Pakistani officers believed it was real. One of them, in particular, believed he knew where it took place and why. And the dance of opinion among the Americans was that it was real.

INSKEEP: Where was it that this supposedly took place?

Ms. PERLEZ: This supposedly took place in Swat, which is a region where the Pakistani army, last year, was engaged in a fairly fierce battle against the Taliban.

INSKEEP: Now, what are the implications then, if Pakistan, a critical U.S. ally, is implicated in this way, in what would qualify as a terrible human rights abuse?

Ms. PERLEZ: There is a law in the United States that forbids an administration from funding units in a foreign army that are found to have conducted gross human rights violations. And so thats one thing. And then there is the overall embarrassment of the Americans being entangled, and supporting, and encouraging an army that may have allowed such a thing to happen.

INSKEEP: What has Pakistan said about this video?

Ms. PERLEZ: The Pakistani military has a very effective and well-spoken public relations unit. And the head of that unit, General Athar Abbas, says that the video is fake, that it first appeared on a jihadi Web site; and, in part because of their origin, it is a propaganda tool by the Taliban to discredit the Pakistani army - which he says, would never conduct such a thing.

INSKEEP: Is the military spokesman able to point to anything about the video that would tend to demonstrate that it was, as he says, a fake?

Ms. PERLEZ: He did not point to particulars within the video. But he did point to, as I said, where the video was first posted.

INSKEEP: How widely has this news spread inside Pakistan?

Ms. PERLEZ: Not at all. There's a very lively media here, but it usually quite obedient to the wishes of the military. So I would be very surprised if this story got much daylight here.

INSKEEP: You know, Im curious, Jane Perlez, of The New York Times, the Pakistan military has a certain reputation within the country. Do you think people would be terribly surprised to learn that Pakistani soldiers might be involved in an execution, in the woods somewhere?

Ms. PERLEZ: Well, this doesnt come as, exactly, a surprise. There've been reports of incidents like this for the last year. And the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported, a few months ago, that there were 282 extrajudicial killings in Swat since July last year. And there have been boasts, by even current military officers in private dinners and so forth, of some pretty horrific things that were done during the Swat campaign.

So I think that some people will be shocked when they see the video because it is horrifying. But on the other hand, I think that there may be a certain feeling that the militants have done terrible things, and maybe they deserved this.

It's hard to say, but I think there'd be some shock and may be not some shock.

INSKEEP: Jane Perlez of The New York Times is in Islamabad. Thanks very much.

Ms. PERLEZ: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And this morning, we've posted links for you to Jane Perlez's article, as well as the video itself. You can find those links by following us on Twitter @morningedition and @nprinskeep. You can also follow Ari Shapiro, by the way, @_shapiro.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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