ISLAMABAD - Shepherds found 13 bullet-riddled bodies in northwestern Pakistan, officials said Sunday, and two local residents identified them as men detained by the authorities in January.

Two intelligence officials said the bodies discovered near Mandao village in Shaktoi, South Waziristan , were Taliban fighters. A military spokesman declined to comment.

Residents identified the bodies found on Saturday as local villagers and said the incident raises further questions about human rights abuses by the security forces battling the Taliban insurgents.

Shaktoi resident Allah Khan told Reuters by telephone that the military arrested 35 people from Mandao in January.

“We contacted army officials here and they said that we will release them soon, but yesterday we found their dead bodies in the wild mountains of Shaktoi,” he said. “Shepherds saw these bodies lying under trees.

“They had been killed with bullets, and different parts were eaten by wild animals,” he said. “Now we fear that the rest of the arrested people will be killed in such a way.”

Residents were able to identify the men through their clothes and some of their faces, he said. He provided a list of names of the dead. “I know these people, they were from my village,” said another Mandao resident, Gul Wali. “Why are our forces killing us in such way?”

Two local intelligence officials disputed the account. “The bodies are of militants and we are investigating how they are killed,” one said.

Cases before the Supreme Court forced military officials to admit to holding some prisoners in detention centres, but they have mostly refused to provide details on numbers, identities or locations. The military has denied reports of abuses.

Access to areas where the army is operating is tightly controlled. Foreign journalists are not allowed in the regions bordering Afghanistan without written permission and a military escort.

Around two million Pakistanis have been displaced by fighting between government forces and the Taliban. The Taliban are also blamed for widespread torture and killings.