By Mehreen Zahra-Malik
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's military denied on Monday that a man shown being hanged in videos released by the Taliban was one of its intelligence officers, as the insurgents had claimed.
In footage released on Sunday, the militant Islamist group hanged a man who identified himself as belonging to a Pakistan army unit and said he had been recruited by the country's military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence.
The videos were provided by a Taliban commander in the mountainous border region of North Waziristan who is known to Reuters. He did not comment on when or where the video was shot.
“It is totally baseless news," military spokesman General Asim Bajwa said in a statement. "The person shown in the video is neither a serving soldier nor an intelligence official."
A senior government official said that according to intelligence reports, the man who was hanged was an Afghan national who had crossed over into Pakistan a few years ago and been kidnapped by the Taliban.
“When his family did not pay ransom, he was hanged,” the official said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the case.
The Taliban often claim responsibility for incidents in which they were not involved, and are known to exaggerate fatality figures for attacks on army convoys in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban have been for years been fighting to overthrow the government and impose strict Islamic law. Pakistan reinstated the death penalty last December after Taliban gunmen massacred 134 schoolchildren.
"The hanging ... is our response to the Pakistani government who are busy hanging our group members," a masked man in one of the two videos said into the camera. "This is just the beginning and all those who are in our custody or those who have any links with the Pakistan government will face the same treatment."
Taliban violence in Pakistan has fallen overall since the military launched an offensive in North Waziristan in June 2014. But the militants have demonstrated that they are still able to carry out sophisticated attacks, including one on an air base that killed 39 people last month.
(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)