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Bodies Of Suspected Taliban Found In Pakistan's Swat

Pakistani Army soldiers on patrol in Swat
MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Villagers in Pakistan's Swat Valley have found the bodies of 14 suspected militants, reviving concern about extra-judicial killings after a successful army offensive against Taliban militants.

The military went on the offensive in the Taliban bastion of Swat, northwest of Islamabad, in late April and has killed or driven hundreds of Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents out of the former tourist valley.

But as the army finishes up its searches and residents displaced by the fighting return home, bodies of suspected Taliban members have been turning up.

Fourteen bodies were found late on August 24 dumped in fields on the outskirts of Charbagh town, villagers and district officials said.

"The bodies were lying in different fields and had bullet wounds," said Wali Khan, a teacher in the town.

Earlier, about 18 bodies were found in different parts of Swat and the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it suspected security agencies had carried out extra-judicial killings.

"We call for a proper investigation to find out who killed them, who were the dead, whether they were militants, innocent people or bystander," said I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the rights group. "We've already demanded an investigation but nothing has happened. It's a serious matter and must be looked into."

The military has denied any involvement in the killings.

"This could be a result of revenge by the local people," said military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas. "It could be a reaction to all that happened to the people in Swat."


Militants infiltrated into Swat with large supplies of arms and ammunition to support a radical cleric demanding the introduction of hard-line Islamist rule.

The army launched its first offensive against them in late 2007, pushing the gunmen into remote mountains but they drifted back into the valley's towns after the offensive ended.

The Taliban were soon in control of virtually the entire valley, killing policemen and other opponents, often beheading or stringing the bodies of their victims up in public.

They also banned girls from school, flogged women in public, closed music and video shops, and ordered men to grow their beards in line with their interpretation of Islamic rules.

The spread of the Taliban out of the valley and into a neighboring district closer to Islamabad early this year raised alarm among nuclear-armed Pakistan's Western allies, and accusations that it was ignoring the danger.

According to the military, nearly 1,800 militants have been killed in the offensive that began in late April. There has been no independent verification of that estimate.

But no top Taliban leader has been killed or captured in the Swat offensive and the militants have threatened to strike back.