KABUL, Afghanistan, June 21 (UPI) -- Two men convicted of killing 40 people during a bank robbery were hanged in a prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, state police said.
The National Intelligence Police announced the hangings Monday in a statement, calling the men "terrorists" who killed "40 of our innocent countrymen" and injured 78 others during the robbery in February, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The statement said Afghan President Hamid Karzai "accepted the decision of the court" that the men be hanged. The killers were the first to be hanged by Karzai government, although other forms of capital punishment have been carried out.
The executed men were identified as Zar Ajam, a Pakistani, and Matiullah from Afghanistan's Kunar province, the Post said.
A third Afghan was given a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the robbery, a fourth person was shot by bank security guards, and a fifth detonated a suicide vest, killing himself.
Some officials earlier said the group was Taliban insurgents, but police did not confirm that on Monday, the Post said.
The Karzai government has been hesitant to administer capital punishment as it tried to distance itself from the Taliban, who carried out public executions, observers said. But Karzai, facing public pressure in this case, signed execution warrants after a court sentenced them to death.
A Taliban spokesman issued an e-mail statement to media Monday, expressing condolences for the executed men and warning it was the duty of insurgents avenge the deaths.
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns the executions, and revenge for the blood of our martyrs is our priority," the statement said, blaming the "puppet government" for the deaths. The statement said the men's "martyrdom is a great source of pride" and the achievement of a "great wish and hope, which has now come true."