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Sri Lankan cricket team attacked in Pakistan

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    Terrorist attack targets international cricket match in Pakistan By Keith Jones Wednesday, March 4, 2009
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4, 2009
      Terrorist attack targets international cricket match in Pakistan
      By Keith Jones
      Wednesday, March 4, 2009

      Eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured when unidentified
      terrorists mounted a commando-style raid Tuesday morning on a convoy of
      vehicles carrying players and umpires to a Pakistani-Sri Lankan cricket
      match in Lahore.
      According to news reports, a dozen or more young men, armed with assault
      rifles, grenades and a rocket launcher, ambushed from three sides the
      bus conveying the Sri Lankan cricket team as it reached a major
      intersection in the heart of Pakistan's second largest city.

      The policemen who were escorting the bus returned fire and a battle
      ensued, which according to some reports lasted as long as 25 minutes.
      Six police officers, the driver of the bus transporting the umpires, and
      another civilian were killed. At least five players on the Sri Lankan
      national cricket team, an assistant coach of the Sri Lankan team, and an
      umpire were injured, as were six policemen.

      All the attackers escaped. Many hours later Pakistani authorities
      announced that they had arrested four persons in connection with
      Tuesday's events, but provided no information as to whether any of the
      four had participated in the attack or how they were otherwise involved.

      No group has thus far claimed responsibility for Tuesday's commando
      attack, which could easily have resulted in double or treble the
      fatalities. It was clearly aimed at attracting maximum international
      exposure—cricket is far and away South Asia's most high-profile and
      popular sport—and at demonstrating the inability of Pakistani
      authorities to secure even the country's major cities.

      Over the past year and a half there have been repeated terror attacks in
      Pakistan's biggest cities. None of the orchestrators of these attacks
      have been conclusively identified, let alone arrested and convicted.
      Early on the morning of October 19, 2007, bombs ripped through the
      cavalcade of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Life Chairperson Benazir
      Bhutto as it travelled through Karachi killing more than 135 people. Two
      months later Bhutto was assassinated and 20 others killed in a bombing
      and shooting in the heart of Rawalpindi, the heavily policed city that
      is the headquarters of Pakistan's military. And last September, 54
      people were killed when the most prestigious hotel in Pakistan's
      capital, Islamabad, was bombed.

      Tuesday's events have resulted in a new round of official recrimination
      and finger-pointing, as various state actors and parties in Pakistan and
      its decades-old rival, India, seek to manipulate popular anger and fear
      over the latest atrocity.

      Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a close associate of Pakistani President
      and PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, said that Tuesday's attack was akin
      to that mounted in Mumbai, India in late November and suggested it was
      authored by like elements.

      "These were the same methods and the same sort of people as hit Mumbai,"
      Taseer told reporters.

      Under heavy pressure from Washington and New Delhi, Pakistan's
      government last month conceded that the Mumbai attack, which resulted in
      163 deaths, was partly organized from Pakistan and involved elements in
      the leadership of Lashkar-e-Taibi (LeT), an Islamacist militia that long
      enjoyed close ties with Pakistan's military-intelligence apparatus. Even
      before this, Pakistani authorities had shut down some LeT facilities and
      taken much of its leadership into custody.

      Zardari and Pakistan's PPP-led government have invoked the threat of
      Islamacist terrorism and the growing power of pro-Taliban groups in
      Pakistan's border regions to justify Islamabad's continuing strong
      support for the US occupation of Afghanistan and the perpetuation of the
      decades-long alliance between the Pentagon and the Pakistani military.
      This alliance has been a vital pillar of a succession of right-wing
      military dictatorships in Islamabad.

      Other elements in the Pakistani government are charging that India was
      at the root of yesterday's attack.

      "The evidence which we have got shows that these terrorists entered from
      across the border from India," Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol, the Pakistani
      minister of state for shipping and a PPP legislator, told Geo
      Television. "This was a conspiracy to defame Pakistan internationally."
      Claiming the attack was in retaliation for the Mumbai raid, Gabol termed
      it "a declaration of open war on Pakistan by India."

      Lahore Commissioner Khushro Pervaiz said Indian involvement in the
      attack could not be ruled out and Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman
      Malik talked of the possible involvement of a "foreign hand." Qazi
      Hussain, the head of Pakistan's largest Islamic fundamentalist party,
      the Jamat-i-Islami, accused Indian intelligence agencies of being behind
      the attack.

      Indian political leaders, meanwhile, have seized on the Lahore attack to
      step up their campaign to portray Pakistan as the hub of international
      terrorism. This campaign has the double objective of forcing Pakistan to
      end all its support for the insurgency in Indian-held Kashmir and
      ensuring that Washington's dependence on Pakistani logistical and
      military support in the Afghan war does not result in a weakening of the
      purported Indo-US "global, strategic partnership."

      Within hours of the Lahore attack, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab
      Mukherjee appeared before reporters to demand that "the terrorism
      infrastructure facilities in Pakistan ... be completely dismantled."
      Home Minister P. Chidambaram chastised Pakistan authorities for a
      massive security failure.

      Mukherjee and Chidambaram have repeatedly suggested that India might
      have to resort to military action to take out "terrorist bases" in

      The spokesman for the Congress Party, the dominant partner in India's
      United Progressive Alliance government, made highly provocative remarks.
      Manish Tewari said the Lahore attack was "the result of the policies
      which Pakistan has followed from 1979 to 2009," conveniently ignoring
      that it was the US that instigated the Pakistani state to sponsor
      Islamic fundamentalist militias as part of its efforts to destabilize
      the Soviet Union.

      "If there is something that is happening in Pakistan," said Tewari, "it
      is only Pakistan that is responsible."

      India's bellicose Hindu right has long hoped and pressed for Pakistan to
      be labeled a "terrorist state." While Tewari did not make this demand,
      he verged on it: "Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state. The manner in
      which it is transcending from being a failed state to the Somalia of
      South Asia needs to worry the international community.... Pakistan is
      becoming a time-bomb."

      The Indian elite has long sought to portray the Kashmir insurgency and
      the more recent phenomenon of Islamicist terrorism in India as simply
      and solely a product of Pakistani interference and malevolence. In
      reality both have long indigenous roots, stretching back to the
      reactionary communal partition of South Asia in 1947. Their rise,
      moreover, can only be understood within the context of the Indian
      elite's increasingly explicit Hindu chauvinism and shameful connivance
      in anti-minority pogroms.

      With national elections to be held in India in five stages from April 16
      through May 13, the Congress Party is keen to counter the Hindu
      supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party's reactionary and communal-laden
      claims that it is "soft" on terrorism. It intends to do this by showing
      that it can put Pakistan in "its place" and is not squeamish about
      running roughshod over basic civil liberties to "defeat terrorism."

      Although the Sri Lankan cricket team was the terrorists' ostensible
      target, the response of the Sri Lankan government to yesterday's events
      has thus far been relatively low key. While some news outlets suggested
      that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) might have been behind
      the attack, Colombo has made no such charge.

      Over the past year the Sri Lankan government discarded any pretense that
      it was seeking a negotiated settlement to the island's 25-year-old civil
      war and mounted a punishing war of annihilation against the LTTE, a war
      that it now claims is effectively over.
      The Lahore bombing can only further destabilize a Pakistani government
      and state apparatus that is beset by crisis and riven by division.

      The Obama administration is demanding that Pakistan greatly intensify
      its efforts to stamp out all support for the pro-Taliban, anti-US
      insurgency in the traditionally autonomous Federally Administered Tribal
      Agency (FATA). Yet the brutal methods the military has employed have
      already alienated much of the local populace and the Pakistani people
      greatly resent Washington's use of Pakistan as a tool of its predatory
      foreign policy and its patronage of the Pakistani military.

      Pakistan has been forced to make a further request for IMF assistance,
      significantly above and beyond the $7.6 billion package of loans

      Last week, the long-simmering rivalry between the PPP and the country's
      second largest party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) [PML (N)], came
      to a boil when Zardari and the PPP seized on a patently anti-democratic
      court decision to oust the PML (N) government in Pakistan's largest
      province, the Punjab. (See "Pakistan rocked by protests after opposition
      leaders stripped of political rights")

      Zardari and the PPP-led government have vowed to prevent lawyers from
      staging a sit-in outside the country's parliament later this month to
      protest the government's failure to restore to the judicial bench the
      judges that the former Bush-backed dictator General Pervez Musharraf

      At the beginning of this week, President Zaradari issued an executive
      order establishing mobile courts to issue quick "justice." This order is
      widely seen as a preparation to use mass jailings to crush
      anti-government protests, including the lawyers' movement. Critics note
      that the last time such a judicial regime was imposed was in 1919, when
      British colonial authorities were attempting to crush mass popular
      resistance in Lahore.


      Imran Khan: This is the result of a weak government and the 'war on
      "Pakistan must tell Obama that unless the US changes strategy, we will
      sink deeper"
      Wednesday, 4 March 2009

      Relatives with the body of a Pakistani policeman killed in yesterday's

      This was a major security lapse. Having promised to guarantee the Sri
      Lankan team's security, Pakistani authorities should have at least
      provided the sort of security that a government minister gets. This
      could have been a mammoth tragedy. And how were the attackers allowed to
      get away?

      This was not an ideological attack, unless a link to the Tamil Tigers is
      uncovered. Sri Lanka is not part of any alliance that is involved in
      fighting in Afghanistan. Cricket is popular here. The militants want to
      gather popular support for their campaign. By attacking cricket, they
      only lose support and isolate themselves. Whenever known groups in
      Pakistan have carried out attacks, they have focused on targets such as
      the security forces and politicians.

      The attackers wanted to destabilise Pakistan. It was an attack on the
      state. They wanted to specifically hit the economy. They knew that they
      would get international coverage by attacking a high-profile target.
      There are suicide attacks going on every day in Pakistan but they don't
      get noticed anymore. In this case, the stock exchange was affected. The
      whole idea that Pakistan is a war zone was reinforced. Just like after
      the Marriott bombing last year, this could lead to a flight of capital.

      This is a tragedy and is a consequence of our involvement in the Bush
      administration's "war on terror". We were taken into this war against
      the public will. There were no Pakistanis involved in 9/11. We were
      sucked in deliberately by a dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, who
      wanted to strengthen his position and receive American money.

      The government today is completely incapable of lifting us out of this
      misery. The present coalition was brought about by the charade of an
      election last year, the aim of which was to create a government that
      continued to support US policies in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal

      So we now have a pliant government. The result has been disastrous.
      Hundreds of thousands have been driven away from their homes as a result
      of the military operations. US drones, operating from bases in Pakistan,
      continue to kill our own civilians. At the same time, the government
      lies, saying they condemn these attacks. All this has done is deepen
      anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and make the government unpopular.

      The country is sinking into these various crises sparked by the "war on
      terror". Instead of a government prepared to represent its people, they
      have pursued Musharraf's policies. The only way to retrieve this
      situation is to pull Pakistan out of this "war on terror". The Pakistan
      government must approach the Obama administration and say that unless it
      changes its strategy, we will sink deeper. There has to be an objective,
      a conclusion to this war. We need to know how this ends. But no one
      knows how it will end.

      As far as the US is concerned, it's like a line from Alice in
      Wonderland. "When you don't know where you're going, every path takes
      you there." As things stand, the Taliban is growing and the Americans
      are increasingly hated. But what about Pakistan? We have no governance
      system left. That was demonstrated by how the Sri Lankan team was
      attacked, and how the government failed to protect them.

      Imran Khan is chairman of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party and a native of


      By Muhammad Faisal Ali & Husnain Ghayoor
      LAHORE, March 3: Sri Lankan cricketers narrowly escaped a deadly attack
      on Tuesday morning when terrorists ambushed the bus carrying them to the
      Qadhafi Stadium for the third day's play of the second Test.

      Some evidence gathered by police suggested that it could actually have
      been an attempt at kidnapping the Lankan players...


      Sri Lankans leave for home
      LAHORE, March 3: Sri Lanka's cricket team flew out of Pakistan on a
      specially chartered Airbus 320, cutting short their tour after a deadly
      attack on Tuesday, Pakistan's coach said.

      The chartered plane arrived from Colombo at around 9.30pm and left 40
      minutes later...


      ICC casts doubt on Pakistan as World Cup hosts
      LONDON, March 3: The International Cricket Council (ICC) cast doubt on
      Tuesday on Pakistan's hopes of remaining a co-host of the
      sport's 2011 World Cup, saying the Lahore attacks had changed the
      global landscape for the game.

      While vowing not to make a "knee-jerk" reaction to the deadly
      attacks on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore, ICC chief executive
      Haroon Lorgat warned that it would be difficult to persuade cricketers
      to play in Pakistan...



      A coordinated, commando-style ambush on the Sri Lankan
      cricket team in Pakistan on Tuesday revealed embarrassing
      security gaps in an increasingly unstable country.

      For Pakistan, Attack Exposes Security Flaws

      ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A coordinated, commando-style ambush on the
      Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan on Tuesday revealed embarrassing
      security gaps in an increasingly unstable country.

      Cricket Team Attacked in Pakistan

      Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency
      A colleague weeps at the covered body of one of the Pakistani policemen
      killed in an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan,
      on Tuesday.

      With eight dead in Lahore, not even cricket, a cherished national
      pasttime, seemed secure after 12 gunmen carrying sacks of weapons
      attacked a bus bearing the Sri Lankan team and then escaped in
      motorized rickshaws. A video of the attacks was broadcast around the
      world, destabilizing images for a nation under siege from an insurgency
      by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

      Most major cricket teams already refuse to risk playing in Pakistan,
      ever more isolated from the rest of the world.

      "This happened in the heart of Lahore, the cultural capital of the
      country," said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister and
      a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari.
      "None of the attackers were shot or caught, and they were coming to
      the scene with big bags. That's absurd."

      Mr. Sherpao called the attack a "total security lapse."

      The police said the gunmen — using assault rifles, grenades and even
      antitank missiles — assaulted the bus with the Sri Lankan team at a
      grassy traffic circle near the city's main Qaddafi Stadium during a
      five day-match. Six police officers in an escort van were killed, and
      six cricketers were injured, the police said. Two bystanders were also

      The operation bore some similarity to the attack in November in Mumbai,
      India, in which 10 militants attacked hotels and other targets over
      three days, killing 163 people, security officials said.

      In Lahore, the attackers also appeared to be in their early 20s. They
      wore sneakers and loose pants and carried backpacks loaded with weapons
      and high-energy snacks of dried fruit and chocolate, all
      characteristics of the Mumbai gunmen. The gunmen in Lahore walked
      casually as they fired, a stance that appeared to be part of the
      training of the attackers in Mumbai, security experts said.

      The Sri Lankan team, including those who had been injured, arrived back
      in the capital, Colombo, on Wednesday morning. There was no immediate
      claim of responsibility for the attack.

      President Zardari met with the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani,
      and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani hours after the attack to discuss
      Pakistan's security situation, according to a statement by the
      president's office.

      The senior official at the Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, who is close
      to President Zardari, said: "We suspect a foreign hand behind this
      incident. The democracy of the country has been undermined, and
      foreigners are repeatedly attacked to harm the country's

      American counterterrorism officials said that it was too early to
      determine which group was behind Tuesday's attack, but that the
      Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba were possible suspects. One South Asia
      specialist also raised the possibility that Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri
      Lanka might have asked Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in Pakistan to attack
      the cricket team. If true, this would be an ominous sign of
      collaboration between regional terrorist groups.

      American experts voiced concern that such attacks might be the new
      terrorist strike of choice instead of suicide bombings. "It's
      likely there will be more of these kind of attacks, which are much more
      difficult to defend against," said Juan Zarate, the White
      House's top counterterrorism official under President George W.
      Bush. "Mumbai has become a terrorist exemplar."

      The attack, which began at 9 a.m. Tuesday, appeared to have been well
      planned. Because it occurred on the third day of the cricketers'
      match, the assailants had time to carry out reconnaissance on the
      previous mornings.

      The driver of the cricketers' bus, Mohammad Khalil, described how a
      white car had swerved in front of the bus, forcing him to slow.
      Television images showed gunmen emerging from the large grassy traffic
      circle and shooting at the bus from crouched positions.

      According to an account on a cricket Web site, cricinfo.com, the players
      ducked to the floor of the bus and shouted at the driver to speed ahead.
      Mr. Khalil drove through the gunshots and whisked them to the stadium.

      Later, the Lahore police said they had found weapons stashes near the
      scene and at various points around the city, including 10 rifles, two
      rocket launchers, a 9-millimeter pistol and detonator cable.

      Mr. Sherpao, the former interior minister, contended that it had been
      possible for the attack to take place because the top echelon of police
      officials in Lahore had been changed in the last few days.

      The changes in police personnel had been ordered by the governor of
      Punjab, Salman Taseer, who is now overseeing the province by executive
      order at the behest of President Zardari, Mr. Sherpao said.

      Mr. Sherpao alleged that the new team of police officials was more
      concerned with security at political rallies staged by Nawaz Sharif,
      the opposition leader. "The security team was marginalized,"
      Mr. Sherpao said.

      Late Tuesday night, Mr. Taseer acknowledged that the top police
      officials had been changed, but the home secretary, responsible for
      security in the province, had remained in office.

      The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller
      III, is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Wednesday on a previously
      planned trip. The F.B.I. offered to help in the investigation in
      Lahore, but had been told by the Pakistani government that its help was
      not needed, a senior bureau official said.

      The wounded cricketers received treatment at a Lahore hospital. Two
      players were treated for bullet wounds, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan
      High Commission said. The team flew home on Tuesday night.

      The Sri Lankan team had been particularly welcomed because it had agreed
      to play in Pakistan after other major world teams had refused to come,
      citing Pakistan's poor security. Last year, the Australian, British
      and South African cricket teams said they would not take part in the
      Champions Trophy, a major world cricket event scheduled in Pakistan.

      After the Mumbai attack, the Indian team refused to come for matches
      planned in 2009.

      The series with Sri Lanka represented a sort of coming out for Paksitani
      fans starved of first-class cricket at home.

      Cricket is as important to the sports psyche in Pakistan as baseball is
      in the United States. The matches with Sri Lanka were the first
      international cricket contests in Pakistan in 14 months.

      To persuade the Sri Lankans to visit, the Pakistanis offered
      presidential-style security, Pakistani television reported.

      But to show that the Sri Lankan cricket team did not receive the
      security it had asked for, the Dawn television channel on Tuesday night
      showed the elaborate motorcades with bulletproof vehicles traveling at
      high speed with flashing lights used by senior Pakistani officials.

      In contrast, the television report showed bullet holes in the windows of
      the cricketers' bus.

      Pakistan is scheduled to host the World Cup cricket tournament in 2011.
      "How do you expect a foreign team to come to Pakistan now?"
      said Wasim Akram, a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team.

      Reporting was contributed by Waqar Gillani from Lahore, Somini Sengupta
      from New Delhi, Alan Cowell from Paris, and Sharon Otterman from New



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