- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MINGORA, PAKISTAN (AP) - Dozens of gunmen opened fire at a university in a northwest Pakistan region near the Afghan border early Wednesday, killing three police officers and a security guard, authorities said.

The attack occurred in Lower Dir, which borders Pakistan’s militant-plagued tribal regions and is near the Swat Valley, where the government recently agreed to impose Islamic law to strike a peace deal with the Taliban.

A top government official said Taliban fighters detained 14 of the suspected attackers in Swat later Wednesday.

Local police official Pervez Rahim said the gunmen’s identity was not clear, but that they fired upon police who were in a vehicle guarding the school. A university security guard was also shot and died on the spot, Rah said.

Dir lies next to the Bajur tribal region, where the Pakistani military recently declared victory over al-Qaida and Taliban fighters after a monthslong offensive. There are concerns that militants under fire might have fled to safer areas.

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan to crack down on militants who use its soil as a base from which to plan attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have expressed concerns at the country’s attempt to forge peace in Swat by agreeing to impose Islamic law. A cease-fire between the Taliban and the military in the valley struck in February appears to be holding.

Syed Mohammad Javed, a senior regional administrator, said Taliban fighters detained 14 of the alleged gunmen after they arrived in Swat, and that the men may have to face a newly established Islamic court in the valley.

He did not say why or how the Taliban managed to capture the suspects but promised more details later.

The military tried for more than a year to oust Taliban fighters from Swat, but the militants kept gaining sway, essentially setting up their own parallel administration in the lush region that once attracted legions of tourists.

The fighting killed hundreds and displaced up to one-third of the valley’s 1.5 million people.

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