Pakistani Taliban militants murdered 22 rivals captured this week when they seized a northwestern town, a government official and residents told Reuters on Wednesday.
Militants loyal to notorious Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud seized Jandola, on the road to the South Waziristan ethnic Pashtun tribal region on the Afghan border, on Monday and captured about 27 rivals from a pro-government tribe.
Residents found the bodies of 22 of them dumped beside a road outside Jandola on Wednesday.
The violence has highlighted the threat posed by militants despite government attempts to end violence through talks.
“Some have bullets wounds but there were some who were killed with knives,” Barkatullah Marvat, the top government official in the region, told Reuters.
The abducted men were members of the Bhittani tribe and they belonged to a government-run group promoting peace.
“It was inevitable they would be killed because they were very active and they had an old tribal feud with the Mehsuds.”
Baitullah Mehsud, a member of South Waziristan’s Mehsud tribe, has emerged as Pakistan’s most feared militant over the past year.
He has been accused of a string of suicide attacks across the country including a December 27 gun and bomb attack in which former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed.
Residents said Mehsud’s men had withdrawn from Jandola but had handed over control to some allies from the Bhittani tribe.
Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Pashtun lands along the Afghan border have been a refuge for Taliban and al-Qaida militants since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001.
The area where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding has never come under the full control of any government and the United States says it has become a sanctuary for militants plotting violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.
The government that emerged from February elections, made up of President Pervez Musharraf’s opponents, is trying to end violence through talks with tribal elders in the hope they can press militants in their areas to give up.
The United States says negotiations and peace deals with militants can give them a free hand to plot attacks and U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan say Taliban attacks launched from Pakistani border sanctuaries have been increasing.