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What the execution of 15 kidnapped Pakistani soldiers means

In an apparent surprise to the Pakistan military, insurgents executed 15 soldiers who had been recently kidnapped – a blow to talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban.

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Islamist militants killed 15 captive soldiers Thursday in an attack, dealing a blow for tentative peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban.

The Pakistani Frontier Constabulary forces, based in North Waziristan, were captured on Dec. 23 and executed in retaliation for the recent death of one of their commanders, according to a Taliban spokesman. Tribesmen found the bodies Thursday morning, as officials expressed surprise that negotiations had gone awry.

 “We had been trying to get them freed and we maintained contacts with their captors. Until last night, the indications were positive. God knows what happened afterwards,” an official told Dawn, a leading English daily.

The executions come at a time when reports suggest that the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of jihadist organizations formed in 2007 to fight both America and the Pakistan Army, is apparently redirecting its efforts toward fighting only NATO forces in Afghanistan at the behest of the Afghan Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar.

Ahmed Rashid, author of “Descent into Chaos,” says this deal may be linked to upcoming Afghanistan peace talks in Doha, Qatar, where Pakistan wishes to reassert itself by using militants to increase pressure on NATO forces. “Before [Pakistan] allows Mullah Omar to go there, we wanted to extract something from them,” he says.

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