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Pakistan arrests suspects in Sri Lanka team attack

Pakistan arrests suspects in Sri Lanka team attack
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First Published: Wed, Mar 04 2009. 02 22 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Mar 04 2009. 02 22 PM IST
Lahore: Pakistani police say they have had detained some suspects in connection with the attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team that killed six police and wounded seven players.
Senior police official Haji Habibur Rehman said Wednesday that none of those detained during raids overnight were the gunmen in the assault in the eastern city of Lahore, but said the suspects were being questioned in hopes of garnering leads. He did not divulge how many were held.
“So far we have not made any headway toward the perpetrators,” he told The Associated Press.
Rehman also told GEO news channel that the owners of a car and a rickshaw snatched by the attackers helped police prepare sketches of some of the attackers. He also said the attackers came from outside Lahore but received aid from local residents _ though he did not provide any specifics or evidence to explain that assertion.
Up to 14 heavily armed gunmen sprayed the Sri Lanka team bus with bullets and fired a rocket and a grenade as it traveled to the second test against Pakistan on Tuesday. The bus sped through the ambush and reached the safety of the stadium.
“We were all tucked under the seats,” Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said when the team arrived home in Colombo early Wednesday. “Our guys were getting hurt and screaming but we couldn’t help each other. We were just hoping that we will not get hit.
“None of us thought that we would come alive out of the situation.”
The assault bore similarities to last year’s three-day hostage drama in India’s financial capital Mumbai.
Working in pairs, the attackers in Lahore carried walkie-talkies and backpacks stuffed with water, dried fruit and other high-energy food _ indicating they anticipated a protracted siege and may have been planning to take the players hostage, an official said.
None of the gunmen was killed and all apparently escaped after a 15-minute gunbattle with the convoy’s security detail. In the hunt for the perpetrators, authorities found some bloodstained clothes at a nearby hostel, where some suspects were taken in, Rehman said.
Pakistan’s Punjab provincial government took out advertisements in newspapers Wednesday offering a $125,000 reward.
The ad showed two alleged attackers, both carrying backpacks and guns. The image was taken from TV footage of the event.
Besides the six police officers, a driver of a vehicle in the convoy was also killed, officials said. Seven Sri Lankan players, a Pakistani umpire and a coach from Britain were wounded, none with life-threatening injuries.
By targeting a much-loved sport in Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia, the gunmen were certain to draw international attention to the government’s inability to provide basic security as it battles militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban and faces accusations it is soft on Islamist militants it once nurtured.
The attack ended Pakistan’s hopes of hosting international cricket _ or any high profile sports events, for months, if not years. Even before Tuesday, other national teams had chosen not to tour the country for security reasons. India and Australia had canceled tours, and New Zealand announced Wednesday it was likely to call off its December tour.
The International Cricket Council, which had already stripped Pakistan of hosting rights for this year’s Champions Trophy, said it would also review Pakistan’s status as co-host of the 2011 World Cup.
Authorities canceled the second test, and a special flight carried the Sri Lanka team, including Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana who had been hospitalized with bullet wounds, home, where the exhausted-looking players had an emotional private meeting with their families.
Captain Jayawardene said that growing up in Sri Lanka, which has seen scores of terrorist attacks related to a separatist insurgency in its northwest, meant the players had a “natural instinct” that made them immediately hit the floor at the first sound of gunfire.
“We are used to hearing, seeing these things. Firing, bombings. So we ducked under our seats when the firing began,” Jayawardene told reporters.
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First Published: Wed, Mar 04 2009. 02 22 PM IST