The bullet-riddled bodies of 18 Taliban militants apparently killed by furious residents seeking revenge were discovered on Sunday in Pakistan's northwest Swat valley, officials said.
Pakistan's military claims to have cleared Swat of Islamist extremists in an offensive launched earlier this year after militants extended their grip into the valley, terrorising residents with public beheadings and other violence.
"Eighteen dead bodies of militants were found in Barikot, Shamozai, Kabal and Kanju," a local military spokesman told AFP.
"They had been apparently shot dead by residents who fear that the Taliban might return. These militants were not killed in any military operation... The heads of some of the bodies had been smashed with hammers."
Atif-ur-Rehman, administrative chief of Swat district, confirmed that 18 bodies had been found but he had no further details.
Swat slipped out of government control after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign in which his followers beheaded opponents, burnt schools and fought government troops to enforce sharia law.
The Pakistani army launched an offensive in late April to dislodge Taliban guerrillas from the districts of Buner, Lower Dir and Swat after rebels flouted a peace deal and marched further south towards the capital, Islamabad.
Pakistan says more than 1,800 militants and over 166 security personnel have been killed in the offensive since late April, but the death tolls are impossible to verify independently.