Pakistan identifies Sri Lankan cricket attackers
Pakistan said on Thursday authorities had identified the men who ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team and conceded security breaches in failing to prevent the deadly attack.
Dramatic footage of the gunmen making a leisurely getaway from the scene of Tuesday’s deadly assault opened the floodgates to criticism that security forces should have done more to prevent an assault that killed eight people.
“We have identified the people who did the operation,” provincial governor Salman Taseer told a news conference in Lahore, the capital of Punjab.
Pakistan is steeped in political violence, and suspicion has fallen mainly on Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Police have brought in about two dozen people for questioning but no leads have been announced.
“We have a lot of information. We have arrested many people, rounded up some suspects… but the final investigation will be presented to me tomorrow [Friday]; till then I am not in a position to say more,” said Taseer.
Up to 12 men attacked the convoy of officials, coaches and players, firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher as the vehicles approached the cricket ground in the city of Lahore. The attackers fled without a trace.
The new footage, captured by closed-circuit cameras, shows two suspects wearing rucksacks and ambling down the road, apparently untroubled after the carnage took place. They then jump on motorbikes and speed off.
Police released sketches of four suspects. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault, which killed eight Pakistanis and wounded 19 people, including seven Sri Lankan players and an assistant coach.
Pakistan lawmakers accused the government of a “serious security lapse” and highlighted reports that the authorities were warned of a possible attack.
The top government official for Lahore conceded on Thursday there were gaps in security provision for the Sri Lankan team.
“A terrorist has to succeed only once, whereas security has to be successful all the time. After every incident one gets wiser. You get to know all the gaps and how you should not repeat those gaps,” Khusro Pervaiz said.
More than 1 600 people have been killed in attacks in Pakistan over the past 22 months, and al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have forged a de facto safe haven in the country’s lawless north-west along the border with Afghanistan.
For decades, Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence agency has fostered Islamist militant groups in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and there are suspicions that some ISI elements have links to militants inside the country.
Chris Broad, the match referee for this week’s Test, angered officials by saying Pakistan security forces had left the convoy vehicles like “sitting ducks”.
“We were promised high level security and in our hour of need, that security vanished,” he told reporters in Britain.
Simon Taufel, an Australian umpire caught in the attack, said their bus had been left unprotected once the assault began.
“You tell me why supposedly 20 armed commandos were in our convoy and when the team bus got going again, we were left on our own? I don’t have any answers to these questions.”
Pakistan cricket chief Ijaz Butt accused Broad of lying about poor security and said he would make an official complaint to the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“It is a big lie that there were no policemen. We will lodge a protest with the ICC,” said Butt.
Pakistan has a long history of unsolved political violence. Former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, and many here have expressed doubts whether her killers can ever be brought to justice.
Tuesday’s attack was also a serious blow for cricket in Pakistan, where millions follow the game passionately, and has deepened the isolation of a country now shunned by much of the world cricket community.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board announced on Thursday that Pakistan’s cricket tour of Bangladesh scheduled to start later this week has been postponed.—AFP