PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistani authorities have discovered the remains of 16 coal miners missing since 2011 in a tribal area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which was once a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban militants.
Officials have confirmed to RFE/RL that the remains of the victims were handed over to relatives on April 9.
The miners went missing in late 2011 from a coal mine in the Kala Khel tribal area to the south of Peshawar.
They were discovered in a mass grave in the Gulo Tangi area of the Kohat district about 50 kilometers southwest of Peshawar.
An official from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's emergency rescue service said an anonymous telephone caller tipped off authorities about the location of human remains in the area.
A team from the rescue services excavated the mass grave on April 9 to recover the remains of all 16 missing miners.
Locals residents say Pakistani militants in the area used to kidnap people for ransom. But some local tribesmen believe Pakistani security forces at the time of the miners' disappearance were also carrying out abductions and killings as part of anti-terrorist military operations.
Pakistani and international rights groups have also accused Pakistani security forces of carrying out enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Pakistani security forces denie any involvement in such cases.
On April 9, relatives of the miners who were slain briefly blocked traffic on the Kohat-Peshawar road to call attention to their allegations of involvement by security forces.
The road was reopened a few hours later after the officials assured them the killings would be investigated and the government would pay compensation to relatives.
Mass Grave Uncovered With 16 Pakistani Miners Missing Since 2011