Pakistani police anxious for break on team attack

LAHORE, Pakistan,  (Reuters) – Pakistani police were  searching yesterday for a breakthrough in their investigation  nearly 48 hours after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket  team and then melted away.

The ambush on the team and its police escorts as they drove  to the main stadium in Lahore has shocked the cricket-mad  country and raised new fears about nuclear-armed Pakistan’s  ability to overcome the militant threat.

Seven Pakistanis, six policemen and the driver of a bus  carrying match officials, were killed in Tuesday’s attack.

Faced with angry finger-pointing over the failure of the  police to protect the team, a senior top Lahore official said  investigators had warned the authorities of just such an attack.

Police, desperate for leads, have rounded up scores of  people without establishing any link, according to officials.  One investigator told Reuters they had found a cellphone that  had led to the arrest of at least one real suspect.

“We’ve made some arrests, one through a SIM card, but there  has been no major catch,” city police chief Habib-ur Rehman told  said late yesterday, referring to a device that holds  information in a mobile phone.

Six Sri Lankan players were wounded along with two team  officials, including a British assistant coach. They flew back  to Colombo along with the rest of their party later on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference  with his Sri Lankan counterpart investigators were following  important leads that would eventually unearth the culprits.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said it was  the first attack on Sri Lankans outside the country and he did  not rule out the possibility that the rebel Liberation Tigers of  Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were involved.

WARNING

Police had warned authorities that the Sri Lankan team was  at risk, said Lahore administrator Khusro Pervaiz.

“It’s correct that we were forewarned … there were many  pieces of information which came to us,” he told Dawn  Television.

Pervaiz did not elaborate but said security for the team  could have been “much, much better”.

The government of Punjab province, of which Lahore is  capital, has offered a reward of $125,000 for information on the  attackers, who were armed with AK-47s, hand grenades and  rocket-propelled grenades.

Television footage showed the gunmen, some of whom appeared  to be in their early 20s, wearing track suits and trainers and  shalwar kameez, traditional long shirt and baggy trousers.

Pakistan, beset by economic problems, has reeled under a  wave of bomb and gun attacks in recent years, mostly carried out  by militants linked to the Taliban or al Qaeda.

Arch nationalists would relish the discovery of a link  between rival India and the Lahore attack.

Commentators have mentioned similarities between the Lahore  attack and November’s assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in  which nearly 180 people were killed. India blamed Pakistani  militants and their security agency handlers.

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