"We have fulfilled it and we hope now they will play their part for peace," Javed said.

Western unease

The release is likely to heighten unease among Western nations that such conciliatory measures towards the Taliban will only embolden them and provide safe haven for opposition fighters.

Sharia (Islamic law) was enforced in the Swat valley, in the NWFP, after regional authorities made a deal with Maulana Sufi Mohammad, an influential local cleric.

Last month's agreement was made in the hope that Mohammad could rein in opposition fighters.

A ceasefire was announced by the Taliban on February 24 and the military suspended operaions in the Swat valley, 130km north of Islamabad, the capital.

The NWFP is the focal point for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan and a launching zone for attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Bodies found

On Sunday, 10 bodies were found in Mohamand tribal district on the border with Afghanistan.

The dead men were among 15 abducted by opposition fighters on Saturday in the region used by Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives as a refuge.

"Locals found the bodies of 10 Khasadars [tribal militiamen] dumped around the mountains in Omar Banda and Ayesha Korona," said Rasool Khan, a local administrator.

"All were shot dead. The security forces have reached the area to recover the bodies," Khan said.