Pakistani authorities say militants have executed 13 people, including seven civilians, after government troops launched an assault on their stronghold in the country's North West Frontier Province.
Provincial authorities on Saturday said they found the beheaded bodies of three Pakistani soldiers and three police officers. They said the militants abducted and beheaded the officers in the Swat Valley region Friday.
The authorities said the militants also killed seven civilians seized from a van traveling in the region Friday.
Authorities say the militants are allied with the pro-Taliban religious leader Maulana Fazlullah. But a spokesman for Fazlullah today denounced the executions.
Earlier this week, the Pakistani military deployed more than two thousand troops to the region to combat a rise in violence by pro-Taliban militants.
Friday, government troops clashed with supporters of Fazlullah. At least three people were killed in the fighting.
In an interview with VOA's Deewa Radio, North West Province Chief Minister Shamsul Mulk said the Pakistani government will not negotiate with the militants on their terms. Mulk says the ongoing military action in the Swat Valley is not an offensive operation, but rather an effort to restore order in the area.
In recent days, Fazlullah has tried to set up a parallel government and impose strict Islamic law.
The valley in the conservative North West Frontier Province is a stronghold of Fazlullah's group, Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammed, which has close ties to Afghanistan's Taliban militants.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned the group in 2002.