Pakistan Hunts for Sri Lankan Cricket Team Attackers
By Barry Newhouse
04 March 2009
Pakistani police say they have detained several people suspected of possible links to Tuesday's attack against Sri Lanka's cricket team, but so far have announced no arrests in the manhunt.
Pakistani security officials have been eager to demonstrate they are pursuing the estimated 12 gunmen who attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team during morning rush hour in downtown Lahore.
The attackers were filmed by at least two Pakistani news crews during a 20 minute gun battle with police, yet none of them were killed or captured.
Officials have struggled to explain security procedures for the high-profile match that led to the deaths of six police officers and a driver, as well as injuries to several players. In London, a British match referee who was in the convoy said security was lax and when the attack began, police fled.
During a joint news conference with Sri Lanka's foreign minister, Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said investigators are making progress.
"I've shared some of our initial reports, I've also shared with him that today, we have some details and important leads that will eventually unearth the people responsible for this terrible act," he said.
Qureshi said officials will release details to the public later.
The Punjab government published photographs of two of the attackers in newspapers, offering a more than $125,000 reward for information leading to their arrest.
The attack has also become part of a domestic political dispute between President Asif Zardari and his critics, who say his imposition of executive rule in Punjab last week led to disarray in the government and decreased security for the cricket match.
Officials allied with Mr. Zardari rejected allegations that top police officials in Lahore had been changed during the past few days.
For much of Pakistan, where cricket is considered a national pastime, there was a resignation that the country has become too dangerous to host international matches.
Sri Lanka was the first team to play a five-day test in Pakistan in more than a year - and only came after several other teams backed out.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters in Islamabad that Tuesday's incident is the first terrorist attack targeting Sri Lankans outside their home country.
"This is the danger in living with terrorists in the world. We have said that in a voice of our own to the world for several decades," he said. "Now the world has come to hear it better and they will hear it more with these types of incidents occurring."
The foreign minister says despite Tuesday's attack, he remains convinced in cricket's power to bring people together. He said sport diplomacy remains a character of civilized societies.
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