Bodies of tortured Taliban found in Pakistan valley

MINGORA, Pakistan — Scores of badly tortured bodies have been found dumped in Pakistan's Swat valley, raising concerns that the Pakistani army is conducting a campaign of extra-judicial killings and brutality aimed at suspected Taliban militants that could sully the army's successful campaign against them.

At least two mass graves for executed Taliban have been discovered, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent organization. Separately, an Internet video emerged Friday that appeared to show Pakistani soldiers, likely in Swat, beating prisoners, including elderly men. The army announced an investigation into the recording.

Pakistan's fearsome Taliban movement, based in the tribal area that borders Afghanistan, took over Swat, which lies just 100 miles from Islamabad, two years ago and conducted a brutal campaign of repression, beheading and bombing its way across the valley.

The army began a counteroffensive in April this year and had the militants routed by the end of July. Then, bodies of suspected Taliban, many previously detained by the military, started to turn up at crossroads, on bridges and outside homes.

By the first of September, according to Pakistani news reports, 251 corpses had been found, and local residents say the tally may have reached 400 by now.

The killings seem to have the support of the local residents, who express anger at human rights activists who raise the issue.

"Where were these champions of human rights when the Taliban would slit the throats of people in front of their women and children?" said Mohammad Ali, a hotel owner in Swat's main town of Mingora. "Even the Israelis have not done such bad things to the Palestinians as the Taliban did to us."

The army denies executing prisoners, suggesting that the bodies belong to militants killed in combat or at the hands of citizens taking revenge on their tormentors. The military says the mass graves hold the bodies of injured Taliban who were killed by their own during their retreat.