Fifteen Pakistani soldiers stood blindfolded, handcuffed to each other on a barren hilltop as one of their bearded Taliban captors held an AK-47 rifle and spoke with fury about revenge.
He left no doubt what would come at any second.
Pakistan’s Taliban abducted the paramilitary troops on Dec. 23 near the country’s lawless tribal areas to avenge military operations. Now they have released a video as a warning to Pakistan’s 600,000-member army, which has failed to break the back of the insurgents despite superior firepower and a series of offensives against their strongholds.
“Twelve of our comrades were besieged and mercilessly martyred in the Khyber Agency [area],” the militant said.
“Our pious women were also targeted. To avenge those comrades, we will kill these men. We warn the government of Pakistan that if the killing of our friends is not halted, this will be the fate of you all,” he said.
Before death, one of the men described how dozens of Taliban fighters stormed their fort in the northwestern Tank District and kidnapped the soldiers.
“They attacked us with rockets, killed a sentry. One ran away. The Taliban entered the fort and captured us with our weapons,” he said, sitting in rows with other soldiers with their arms folded and legs crossed in front of Taliban banners.
“They tied our hands, put us in a Datsun and took us away,” he said.
The video then shows the men standing quietly. Taliban chanting can be heard.
“We will cross all limits to avenge your blood,” it said, referring to fighters killed by Pakistani security forces.
One of the men shoves a clip into his assault rifle and fires a few rounds into the back of the heads of a few of the soldiers.
Other fighters step up and take turns pumping bullets into the men, some wearing green military uniforms. Each time a soldier collapses, the man standing next to him is pulled in that direction by the handcuffs.
The Taliban and Pakistan’s military have entered exploratory peace talks that raised hopes that their conflict could ease or even end one day.
However, the talks have faltered, a senior Pakistani security official said, and the video — copied to compact discs and distributed in street markets in areas near the porous border with Afghanistan — is likely to enrage the army.
Majeed Marwat, a commander of the Frontier Corps, said morale among his men would always remain high despite such videos.
“Our soldiers enlist because they want to sacrifice for the country. We are taking care of the families of the martyred soldiers,” he said.