Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 11:59 UK

Pakistan Taleban 'execute spies'

The Taleban prepare to kill the two captives
The Taleban said the two men were spies for the US

Militants in Pakistan have carried out what officials have called a "public execution" of two Afghans before thousands of cheering supporters.

The pair were alleged to have helped an American missile strike that killed 14 people in a border village last month.

Correspondents say that the brazen nature of the killings - one man was decapitated and another shot - show the Taleban's growing power.

The deaths took place in the Bajaur tribal agency near the Afghan border.

Spying charges

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says that such killings before large crowds are unusual - but not unprecedented - in the tribal areas.

An AFP correspondent who witnessed the executions said more than 5,000 people watched on open ground 10km (six miles) west of Khar, the main town in Bajaur.

Pakistani soldier in tribal area (File photo 11/4/07)
The authorities have little control in much of the north-west

Local security officials say that the two condemned men were kidnapped two days ago by the Taleban.

The AFP reporter said that the Taleban announced the spying charges against the men on megaphones.

They alleged that their spying activities led to the US missile strikes in the Damadola area of Bajaur.

The houses of two militant leaders were targeted on 14 May and 14 people were killed.

"The men's faces were covered and their hands were tied. One was slaughtered with a knife amid shouts of Allahu akbar (God is great), while the other was shot with a burst of fire from a Kalashnikov," the AFP correspondent said.

Correspondents say that after the two Afghans were killed, celebratory gunfire broke out. Two bystanders were shot dead. It is unclear whether they died from stray bullets or whether they were caught up in an argument.

Violence has escalated in north-western Pakistan in recent days, despite peace negotiations between militants and the government.

The killings came a day after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Pakistan's failure to put pressure on Taleban forces on the border was a "concern".

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