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Pakistan hangs 2 militants after reinstating death penalty in wake of school massacre

WATCH ABOVE: The full devastation of a Taliban attack on a Pakistani school that left 148 people, mostly children, dead was revealed on Wednesday. Walls inside the Peshawar school were pockmarked with bullet holes while the floors were streaked with blood. Torn notebooks, pieces of clothing and children’s shoes were scattered about.

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan hanged two convicted militants on Friday – the country’s first executions in years – after the government reinstated the death penalty in response to a horrific Taliban school massacre this week that killed 148, most of them children.

Pakistan also stepped up an offensive against the militants in the country’s northwest, along the border with Afghanistan, with warplanes and ground forces pounding their hideouts. A total of 77 militants were killed in the operation, which started late Thursday and went on throughout the day Friday.

READ MORE: Pakistanis mourn loss of 148 killed in Taliban school massacre

The school massacre earlier this week stunned the country and brought cries for retribution. In the wake of the mass killing, the military has struck targets in the Khyber tribal region and approved the death penalty for six convicted terrorists.

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The home minister for Punjab province where the two convicted men were hung confirmed their deaths.

“We have started these executions by hanging two terrorists,” Shuja Khanzada told The Associated Press. He identified the two men as Mohammed Aqeel and Arshad Mahmood and said they were executed at a prison in the central Punjabi city of Faisalabad.

“Today’s executions of terrorists will boost the morale of the nation, and we are planning to hang more terrorists next week,” he said.

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The Pakistani army chief late Thursday signed the death warrants of six “hard-core terrorists” convicted and sentenced to death by military courts. At the time, no date was given for the executions but authorities moved quickly after the warrants were signed.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday announced that he would lift a moratorium on executions in terrorism-related cases, as part of efforts to get tough on militants following the Peshawar school killings.

READ MORE: Canada condemns attack on Pakistani school

Both Aqeel and Mahmood were tried in military courts so little is known about their court proceedings. Pakistani media reported that Aqeel was convicted in relation to a 2009 attack on army headquarters and Mahmood for his role in a plot to execute former President Pervez Musharraf.

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Meanwhile, the military said its ground forces late Thursday killed 10 militants while airstrikes killed another 17, including an Uzbek commander. Another 32 alleged terrorists were killed by security forces in an ambush in Tirah valley in Khyber on Friday as they headed toward the Afghan border, the military said.

BELOW: Raw video of aftermath of deadly attack in Peshawar

On Friday morning, troops killed 18 more militants during a “cordon and search operation” in Khyber, the military said.

The military said the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, was travelling to Khyber on Friday to meet with troops taking part in the ground operation.

Khyber agency is one of two main areas in northwestern Pakistan where the military has been trying to root out militants in recent months. Khyber borders Peshawar, where the school massacre happened, and militants have traditionally attacked the city before withdrawing to the tribal region where police can not chase them.

A Pakistani man comforts a student standing at the bedside of a boy who was injured in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
A Pakistani man comforts a student standing at the bedside of a boy who was injured in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
Pakistani army troops cordon off a road leading to a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Pakistani army troops cordon off a road leading to a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
A Pakistani woman reacts as she arrives near the site of an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.
A Pakistani woman reacts as she arrives near the site of an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A wounded Pakistani student receives treatment at a hospital following an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.
A wounded Pakistani student receives treatment at a hospital following an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A Pakistani soldier takes position near the site of an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.
A Pakistani soldier takes position near the site of an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured at a school that was attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured at a school that was attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
Pakistani army troops arrive to conduct an operation at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in the northwestern Pakistani city, killing and wounding dozens, officials said, in the latest militant violence to hit the already troubled region.
Pakistani army troops arrive to conduct an operation at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in the northwestern Pakistani city, killing and wounding dozens, officials said, in the latest militant violence to hit the already troubled region. AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

The other area is North Waziristan, where the military launched a massive operation in June.

READ MORE: Malala Yousafzai ‘heartbroken’ about attack in Pakistan

Also Friday, Pakistani security forces killed a senior Pakistani Taliban leader along with seven of his associates in three separate pre-dawn raids in the southern province of Baluchistan, said a tribal police officer, Ali Ahmed.

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In schools across Pakistan, special classes were held Friday, with schoolchildren chanting prayers in memory of the victims of the Taliban slaughter. In mosques throughout the country, worshippers also offered special prayers for the massacred innocents in Peshawar.

Associated Press reporters Zarar Khan and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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