Extremists Killing Afghans They Suspect Are Spying

By Imtiaz Ali
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, March 27, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, March 26 -- Extremists in Pakistan's western tribal areas have killed dozens of people suspected of providing intelligence to the United States and its allies in recent months, according to local officials and tribal elders. The killings, some of them carried out in brutal fashion and videotaped as warnings to would-be spies, come as the U.S. government has escalated airstrikes in the region.

Officials and tribal elders say most of the victims have been Afghan refugees who can easily cross the porous border with Pakistan. Extremists have killed accused spies since the start of military operations against al-Qaeda fighters and their tribal supporters in 2001, but the recent deaths represent a marked increase in such cases.

"I don't know how much truth lies in these accusations against particular individuals. But looking at the increasing frequency of such incidents, we have also started thinking that the United States may be using Afghan refugees in this area as their informants for information about local as well as foreign militants," one official said on condition of anonymity.

The official added that the Afghans may be working for the Afghan government, outside U.S. command. But "that is considered to be like spying for the United States in this region," he said.

On Tuesday, local officials near Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, found the body of an Afghan refugee, Abdullah Jan. Attached to the body was a note that warned, "Anyone working as an American spy will meet the same fate."

Extremists recently released a DVD, "The Fate of a Hypocrite," which shows the beheading of an unidentified man. The DVD shows the man confessing that he had received about $1,000 for spying for the United States. Several masked men standing behind him laugh and say the punishment of spying is death. Then a teenager steps forward and beheads the man with a knife.

Sources close to the extremists said the man had provided information to "enemy forces" about the position of Taliban fighters, who were later killed in an airstrike.

Extremists in the area rely on "a strong network of informants in every village and town" to find suspected spies, said Malik Mumtaz, a tribal elder in Miram Shah, adding that the Taliban usually releases a DVD of the person being killed.

"In a few days," Mumtaz said, "you will see a new DVD showing the assassination of Abdullah Jan."

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