Center for Strategic Communication

The Taliban executed 21 Pakistani policemen last night after capturing them during a series of raids at checkpoints outside the northwestern provincial capital of Peshawar last week. The Taliban have now conducted three mass executions of Pakistani security personnel since June 2011.

The policemen were bound, blindfolded, lined up, and shot after being tried and convicted by a Taliban court, provincial officials told Reuters. Of the 23 policemen who were captured during the raids last week, 21 were executed, one was shot but survived and is in a hospital with serious injuries, and one escaped, Dawn reported.

The Taliban’s top spokesman and the spokesman for a local group operating in Peshawar both claimed credit for the execution.

“We killed all the kidnapped men after a council of senior clerics gave a verdict for their execution. We didn’t make any demand for their release because we don’t spare any prisoners who are caught during fighting,” said Ihsanullah Ihsan, the senior spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Mohammad Afridi, the spokesman for the The Commander Tariq Afridi Group, said that his faction carried out the execution of the police. The Commander Tariq Afridi Group is one of the most dangerous Taliban factions. It is based in Darra Adam Khel and operates in Arakzai, Khyber, Peshawar, Kohat, and Hangu. Although Tariq Afridi, the group’s emir, is rumored to have been killed, his death has not been confirmed by the Taliban.

The Commander Tariq Afridi Group has also conducted two other major attacks in Peshawar this month. On Dec. 15, the group launched a suicide assault on the Peshawar airport. And on Dec. 22, the group assassinated Bashir Ahmed Bilour, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and killed eight other people in a suicide attack in the city.

The Taliban have conducted mass executions of Pakistani security personnel two other times since the summer of 2011. In June 2011, Taliban fighters loyal to Mullah Fazlullah, the group’s emir in Swat and Dir, executed 16 Pakistani policemen who were captured during heavy fighting in Dir. The Taliban released a videotape that showed the execution.

And in June 2012, Fazlullah’s fighters videotaped the execution of 17 captured Pakistani soldiers taken during fighting in Dir.

The latest mass execution takes place just two days after Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud, appeared in a videotape to deny reports that the top leadership of the Pakistani Taliban is fractured. The Pakistani military and government have been running a disinformation campaign promoting a split between the top leaders, and have claimed the group has been defeated in military operations in the tribal areas.