Footage raises new questions about Pakistan attack
LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) - Pakistan faced new questions about its security forces Thursday as dramatic footage emerged of the cricket attackers making a leisurely getaway from the scene of their deadly assault.
The images of the gunmen calmly walking off, without police or security forces chasing them, will add to the speculation swirling around the brazen daytime attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team Tuesday that left eight people dead.
Pakistan is steeped in political violence, and suspicion has fallen on Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Police have brought in around two dozen people for questioning but say none are linked to the attack.
Up to 12 men attacked the convoy of umpires, coaches and players with automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher as it made its way to the cricket ground in the city of Lahore. The attackers fled without a trace.
The new footage, captured by closed-circuit cameras, showed two suspects wearing rucksacks and ambling down the road, apparently untroubled after the carnage took place. They then jump on motorbikes and speed off.
"We are doing our best to unravel the conspiracy," Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman told AFP.
"Raids are being mounted, leads are being followed," he said. "We believe we are on the right track in the investigation."
Police released sketches of four suspects but have not made any breakthroughs in the case. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault, which killed six police and two civilians, and wounded 19 people.
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 rugged and lawless northwest 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, one of the umpires who was to work the cricket match, angered officials after 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. Broad said the Sri Lanka and Pakistan team buses had left together on the first two days of the Test.
"On this particular day, the Pakistan bus left five minutes after the Sri Lankan bus. Why?" he said. "It went through my mind as we were leaving the hotel: 'Where is the Pakistan bus?'"
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."
Seven Sri Lankan cricketers and a coach were among 19 people wounded.
"It was precisely because of police valour and bravery that the Sri Lankan team and the international umpires survived," said Rehman, the Lahore police chief.
Pakistan has a long history of political violence that goes unsolved. Former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, and many here have expressed doubts whether the killers will 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 Thursday that Pakistan's cricket tour of Bangladesh scheduled to start later this week has been postponed.
New Zealand has indicated a tour of Pakistan set for November will likely be called off, and the International Cricket Council has raised doubts about whether Pakistan will still be a co-host for the sport's 2011 World Cup.
Among the wounded Sri Lanka players, Tharanga Paranavitana, who had a bullet lodged in his chest, and Thilan Samaraweera, who had shrapnel in his right leg, underwent surgery back home. All were expected to make a full recovery.
This video is from ITN, broadcast Mar. 5, 2009.
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