KILI FAQIRAN, Pakistan, (AP) – The boy with the knife looks barely 12. In a high-pitched voice, he denounces the bound, blindfolded man before him as an American spy. Then he hacks off the captive’s head to cries of “God is great!” and hoists it in triumph by the hair.
A video circulating in Pakistan records the grisly death of Ghulam Nabi, a Pakistani militant accused of betraying a top Taliban official who was killed in a December airstrike in Afghanistan.
An Associated Press reporter confirmed Nabi’s identity by visiting his family in Kili Faqiran, their remote village in southwestern Pakistan.
The video, which was obtained by AP Television News in the border city of Peshawar on Tuesday, appears authentic and is unprecedented in jihadist propaganda because of the youth of the executioner.
Captions mention Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s current top commander in southern Afghanistan, although he does not appear in the video. The soundtrack features songs praising Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and “Sheikh Osama” — an apparent reference to Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The footage shows Nabi making what is described as a confession, being blindfolded with a checkered scarf.
“He is an American spy. Those who do this kind of thing will get this kind of fate,” says his baby-faced executioner, who is not identified.
A continuous 2 1/2-minute shot then shows the victim lying on his side on a patch of rubble-strewn ground. A man holds Nabi by his beard while the boy, wearing a camouflage military jacket and oversized white sneakers, cuts into the throat. Other men and boys call out “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great!” — as blood spurts from the wound.
The film, overlain with jihadi songs, then shows the boy hacking and slashing at the man’s neck until the head is severed.
A Pashto-language voiceover in the video identifies Nabi and his home village of Kili Faqiran in Baluchistan province, which lies about two hours’ drive from the Afghan border.
A reporter went to the village, and Nabi’s distraught and angry father, Ghulam Sakhi, confirmed his son’s identity from a still picture that AP made from the footage. He said neighbors had told him the video is available at the village bazaar, but he had no wish to see it.
Sakhi said his son had been a loyal Taliban member who fought in Afghanistan and sheltered the hard-line Afghan group’s leaders in the family’s mud-walled compound.
He blames the Taliban and wants to avenge his son’s death.
“The Taliban are not mujahedeen. They are not fighting for the cause of Islam,” the 70-year-old said. “If I got my hands on them I would kill them and even tear their flesh with my own teeth.”
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, told AP he had no information about Nabi or the video. None of the group’s commanders he contacted could confirm the execution, he said.
The method of Nabi’s death was not unusual for Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions. Suspected informers are regularly found beheaded and dumped along the side of the road in the lawless, mountainous regions along the Afghan-Pakistani border where al-Qaida and Taliban militants find sanctuary.
But such al-Qaida-style killings are rarely featured in the Taliban’s increasingly frequent propaganda videos. The use of a child to conduct the beheading stands out even among those filmed by militants in Iraq.
“This is outright barbarism,” Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said after viewing the video. “Whosoever has committed this, whether they are Taliban or anybody else or any Afghan or al-Qaida or anybody, they are enemy No. 1 of the Muslims.”
The video accuses Nabi of responsibility for a U.S. airstrike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, who was regarded as one of the top three associates of Omar, the Taliban supreme leader. He was hit while traveling by car in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Dec. 19.
Osmani was the highest-ranking Taliban leader to die since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the hard-line regime in late 2001 for refusing to hand over bin Laden following the Sept. 11 terror attack on the United States.
The U.S. military said at the time that Osmani’s death was a serious blow to militant operations, and NATO commanders said this week that a feared spring offensive had yet to materialize.
Sakhi, a retired mosque preacher with a long gray beard, spoke unashamedly of his son’s Taliban affiliation and wept twice during an interview in his simple home at the foot of a mountain valley in Baluchistan province.
He said Nabi fought against the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance that helped U.S. forces to victory in Afghanistan.
After returning to Pakistan, Nabi ran a religious school in the Baluchistan capital of Quetta and had regularly sheltered both Osmani and Dadullah at the family compound, the father said.
He said Nabi also bought weapons for Taliban fighters and organized medical treatment for those injured during fighting in Afghanistan.
Some days after Osmani’s death, Nabi went to Peshawar and then to Wana, a tribal town considered a militant stronghold, to collect money from Taliban officials to buy guns and food for militants in Afghanistan, Sakhi said.
He said his son called at the end of January to reveal that a tribal council had sentenced him to death on charges of tipping off U.S. forces about Osmani’s movements, despite his denials.
His son passed the phone to Dadullah, but the militant leader ignored his pleas for clemency, Sakhi said.
“I talked to him and said you visited us and my son was a close friend so why are you going to hang him? He just said, ‘How are you?’, and switched off the phone,” Sakhi said.
“They are the enemies of Islam,” he said of the Taliban. “They are behaving like savages.”
Sam Zarifi, Asia research director for Human Rights Watch, said the use of a child to commit such an act constituted a war crime and was a “new low” in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He noted the Taliban had teenage combatants but they were not recruited on a large scale because of the availability of adult fighters. He said he had seen children in the background of some jihadist videos but none in which they were directly involved in violence.
“I don’t know why they would do this,” Zarifi said. “The Taliban have to some extent tried to play to the public in Afghanistan and have not engaged in the complete sowing of mayhem that we have seen in Iraq. But this kind of act is really egregious. It’s off the charts.”