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Pakistan begins executions in wake of school massacre

People offer prayers for the victims killed in Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a military-run school in Peshawar after Friday prayers in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Associated Press)
People offer prayers for the victims killed in Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a military-run school in Peshawar after Friday prayers in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Associated Press)
Tom Hussain Tribune News Service

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan executed two convicted terrorists Friday, the first of as many as 400 militants headed to the hangman’s noose amid a government crackdown ordered after Taliban attackers gunned down 148 children and teachers Tuesday at a school in the northern city of Peshawar.

The sentences against Aqeel “Doctor Usman” and Arshad Mehmood were carried out at about 9 p.m. local time, behind closed doors at the prison in the eastern city of Faisalabad where they had been incarcerated.

Both were former soldiers convicted by court-martial. Their warrants of execution had been issued Thursday by the army chief of staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, in a move indicative of Pakistan’s zero-tolerance response to the school massacre.

Aqeel had been captured while leading an October 2009 raid on the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi. Mehmood was involved in a December 2003 twin suicide car-bombing of the cavalcade of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler at the time.

The government instructed jail administrators Friday to execute 20 other people on death row whose clemency appeals Musharraf had turned down while he held the dual office of president.

Those hangings will take place over the weekend and early next week, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan indicated.

The Ministry of Interior said its legal advisers were examining the case records of 378 convicted terrorists with a view to expediting their death sentences.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a six-year moratorium on capital punishment Wednesday, which had been introduced by a previous administration.

The Pakistani Taliban vowed Friday to avenge the executions with attacks on the teenage children of army generals and politicians.

“We will avenge the death of each holy warrior by causing mourning in their homes,” it said in a statement emailed to journalists in Pakistan.

Security at the prisons was beefed up Friday after intelligence agencies warned of possible Taliban raids to free colleagues on death row.

The executions Friday came amid continuing retaliatory strikes against the Pakistani Taliban factions who were behind the school attack, carried out by Pakistani ground forces and CIA drones on both sides of the border with Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Pakistani military said army units had killed 32 militants early Friday in the Khyber tribal area as they fled toward the adjacent eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. Another eight militants were killed there Friday in a CIA drone strike, the second in as many days amid a cross-border manhunt coordinated with the U.S.-commanded international security forces in Afghanistan.

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