The bullet-ridden bodies of eight civilians were found dumped on Wednesday in Pakistan's Swat valley, where militants are fighting to impose Islamic law, officials and residents said.
The bodies were found in two locations of Minglore town, where government security forces have launched an operation to crack down on militants loyal to radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.
"Five bodies were recovered from one place and three from another place," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The bodies were riddled with bullets," said a police officer.
It was not clear whether the civilians were killed during the military offensive or executed by extremists determined to introduce Sharia law in Swat, once a popular spot with Western holiday-makers.
Fazlullah's men have executed dozens of state employees and pro-government supporters, and residents say government control of the area is practically non-existent.
Pakistani authorities have intensified efforts to win back control of the valley, placing several towns under a curfew with orders to shoot violators on sight.
But authorities on Wednesday lifted a curfew on the region's main city of Mingora, said military spokesman Major Nasir Khan.
"We had reports of Taliban movement in the city. Security was beefed up and patrolling was intensified during the night but nothing happened," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Once a popular mountain resort, Swat has descended into chaos in recent months, with pitched battles between militants and security forces.
"The army is present in most parts of the Swat valley and conducting successful operations against militants," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told state television Tuesday.
This week, lawmakers charged that the government had ceded authority in the valley.
"The situation in Swat has gone from bad to worse and is not under control of the civil administration," said Senator Ilyas Bilour, whose party leads the local provincial government.
"The Taliban have control over 90 per cent of the area and want to implement their own agenda there," he said.
The militants recently issued a list of some 40 MPs, government ministers and officials wanted by Taliban on charges of encouraging military operations and killings of people in the valley.