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'41 more bodies found in Swat valley'

At least 41 bodies, mostly those of Taliban militants apparently slain by residents in revenge killings, have been found in Pakistan's Swat valley over the past 24 hours, officials said.

world Updated: Sep 01, 2009 17:14 IST

At least 41 bodies, mostly those of Taliban militants apparently slain by residents in revenge killings, have been found in Pakistan's Swat valley over the past 24 hours, officials said on Tuesday.

The bodies, six of them beheaded, had been dumped by the roadside, riverside and in fields in different areas of the northwestern valley, officials said.

Pakistan's military claims to have cleared Swat of Islamist extremists in an offensive launched in April, after militants extended their grip on the valley and terrorised residents with violence that included public beheadings.

Officials said the latest discoveries brought to 251 the number of people found dead in similar circumstances since July, and believed that these were militants who had been killed by residents fearing a Taliban comeback.

"Among the 41 dead bodies, six were beheaded, almost all of them were militants," Atif-ur-Rehman, the top administrative official of Swat district, told AFP, adding that the rest had bullet wounds.

"According to my information they were militants and were killed by residents," Rehman said.

Fourteen police cadets were killed Sunday in a suicide attack in the main town in Swat valley, which police blamed on Taliban militants.

"People are now familiar with dead bodies, it is becoming a routine," Swat resident Sakhawat Ali, 34, told AFP. "We see dead bodies almost every morning, most of them are Taliban."

The military's April offensive forced 1.9 million civilians from their homes, most of them seeking refuge with relatives and the rest crowding into refugee camps, creating a humanitarian crisis for impoverished Pakistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced in July that the military had "eliminated" extremists in the northwest and according to government and UN statistics 1.6 million displaced people returned home.

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 against troops to enforce Islamic sharia law.

Pakistan says more than 2,000 militants and over 170 security personnel were killed in the government offensive, but the death tolls have been impossible to verify independently.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said on Tuesday its troops had killed 15 more militants in Swat valley's Kabal town, while 105 militants surrendered in the town Kanju.

Two soldiers were wounded in the operation, the army-run Swat media centre and an army official said on Tuesday.

Pakistani troops also launched an operation in Khyber tribal region at dawn on Tuesday and killed five militants, it said, adding that five houses were demolished.

"An indefinite curfew has been imposed in Bara town of Khyber region and 25 people have so far arrested," a security official said after confirming the death toll.

The operation in Khyber came after last Thursday's suicide attack on police barracks near the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which killed 22 policemen.

"Five militants were killed, their houses were destroyed," local administration chief Tariq Hayat, told reporters at Peshawar, adding that the operation would continue until the last militant was flushed out of the area.