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No trace of Lahore attackers; five suspects being quizzed

Two days after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistani investigators were struggling to identify the dozen fugitive terrorists as they quizzed five suspects who claimed that the attackers had stayed in the city for a month before striking.

world Updated: Mar 05, 2009 14:02 IST

Two days after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistani investigators were struggling to identify the dozen fugitive terrorists as they quizzed five suspects who claimed that the attackers had stayed in the city for a month before striking.

Notwithstanding video footage showing the terrorists at Liberty Chowk spraying bullets on the vehicles ferrying the Sri Lankan squad, there was no official word on any headway being made in tracking them down.

One of the five suspects, a resident of Rehmanpura, had a photograph of one of the attackers, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying. The suspects told police that the attackers had stayed in Lahore for a month to plan the assault.

Police are also tracing the persons whose phone numbers were found on the SIM of the mobile phone left behind by the terrorists. Babar Shahzad had reportedly purchased one of the SIMs used by the terrorists.

Shahzad and a teenager named Dilawar Hussain were arrested from a village at Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab. The three other suspects were detained in Lahore.

These five suspects were traced after police found bag with a mobile phone that was thrown by the terrorists following the attack near the Liberty traffic roundabout. All five men are believed to be "facilitators" of the dozen terrorists who carried out the attack that left seven Sri Lakan players and an assistant coach injured and eight people dead.

However, police have still not been able to identify the terrorists who carried out the attack or the group to which they belong. There was also no official word on the number of suspects detained though media reports said over 50 people had been taken into custody for interrogation.

Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) Mushtaq Ahmed Sokhaira told reporters that police were working on different leads. "The police are yet to arrest any of the terrorists but certain leads may take us to them," he said, adding investigations had indicated that the attackers belonged to Punjab, North West Frontier Province and tribal areas.

Police had also seized a large number of items at the site of the attack, including weapons, explosives, walkie-talkies, a large quantity of dry fruit and food items and three auto-rickshaws and two vehicles used by the terrorists, Sokhaira said.

Police are also questioning some Nigerian, Afghan and Uzbek nationals who were arrested during the raids.

Authorities in Lahore yesterday released sketches of four terrorists that were prepared from descriptions provided by witnesses and drivers of auto-rickshaws that were commandeered by the attackers.

CCTV footage aired by television channels yesterday showed more than half a dozen attackers calmly leaving the site of the assault on foot or on a motorcycle.

Aslam, an auto-rickshaw driver whose vehicle was used by two attackers, told police that the men were Punjabi speakers with a fair complexion. They dropped two bags with clothes, detonators and walkie-talkies after getting out of the auto-rickshaw in Lahore's cantonment area.

Toor Agha, the former owner of a white car used by the attackers, was handed over by police to an intelligence agency. The car was found at the Liberty roundabout with timed explosive devices. Agha told investigators he had sold the car some time ago.

The food items found in bags left behind by the attackers indicated they might have planned to take the Sri Lankan team hostage or engage in a prolonged stand-off with security forces, police said.

Several media reports quoted sources as saying that a "foreign hand" was involved in the attack though there was no official word in this regard.