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Lahore, Mumbai attackers from same group: Pakistan

Pakistan has hinted that today's ambush on the Sri Lankan cricket team may have been conducted by the same group that was part of last year's Mumbai attacks, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Mar 03, 2009 15:54 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Pakistan has hinted that Tuesday's ambush on the Sri Lankan cricket team may have been conducted by the same group that was part of last year's Mumbai attacks. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer told the media that the attack was by the same group while Lahore police chief Haji Habibur Rehman said that the similarities were "too many." The Express news channel also quoted unnamed officials who said that the attackers "had come through the Wagah border."

The Sri Lankan cricket team was ambushed on Tuesday morning around 9AM as it made its way to the Gaddafi Statium in Lahore by 12 terrorists who used hand grenades and machine guns. Most of the men, captured on CCTV, had backpacks and walkie talkies. Police officials said that around 30 rounds of ammunition was emptied into the Sri Lankan cricket team bus, which resulted in injuries to eight players, one of whom received a wound in the chest. Police later said that while the Sri Lankan players were out of danger, a Pakistani official accompanying the team was seriously injured.

In the ensuing shoot out between the attackers and the security forces, seven persons - including five policemen were killed. A reserve umpire, Ahsan Zia, was also seriously injured. The Sri Lankan cricket team was evacuated by helicopter from the Gaddafi stadium to the Services Hospital in Lahore.

A decision was taken soon after by the Pakistan Cricket Board to evacuate the Sri Lankans back to their home country. Ejaz Butt of the PCB said that the test had been cancelled and the Sri Lankans would leave Lahore by Tuesday afternoon. Rishad Mehmood, the Sports Editor of Daily Dawn, a local daily, said that the attack "spelt doom for Pakistani cricket." He said that in all certainty the tours of the New Zealand and Zimbabwe teams later this year would be called off.

Soon after the incident, police cordoned off Gaddafi Stadium as Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, said that an immediate probe had been ordered and that she would share details as they came.

What is interesting, say observers, is that the attackers came on motorcycles, which they abandoned and then left after stealing a car from a nearby market. None of the attackers was injured or caught. But Lahore Police chief Haji Habib ur Rehman said that results would come "within twenty four hours." Rehman said that the attackers were young men and very well trained.

The encounter lasted 30 minutes on one of Lahore's busiest boulevards. Raja Riaz, a local leader of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party said that this attack was the result of a "massive intelligence failure."