Lahore, Pakistan: Pakistan on Thursday faced fresh criticism over security lapses after the deadly attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team, as police hunted for the gunmen behind the ambush.
Tuesday’s attack in Lahore — which left six police and two civilians dead, and several Sri Lankan cricketers wounded — has raised questions about the effectiveness of Pakistan’s war on Islamic militants.
The government in Islamabad has set up a special investigation committee to track down the culprits, and police have so far detained about two dozen people over the attack, but match officials said not enough was done to protect them.
“There’s a bit of anger there that we were let down — we had all sorts of assurances before and I’m sure the (Sri Lankan) team feels that way too,” Australian umpire Steve Davis said Thursday at Melbourne airport.
“Despite all that, this was still able to happen and we were put in a very vulnerable position and felt very helpless.”
Davis and other umpires were travelling in a convoy with the Sri Lankan team towards Gaddafi stadium for the third day of the second Test with Pakistan when up to 12 men opened fire with automatic weapons and grenades.
Simon Taufel, another Australian umpire caught in the attack, also vented his fury at Pakistan, questioning how their bus had been left unprotected as the gunmen launched their assault.
“We were promised a nine (out of 10 on security) and got delivered a two,” Taufel said upon his arrival home.
“The gunfire ... it just kept going. We thought, when’s it going to stop? Who’s going to come and save us, how are we going to get out of here?
“You tell me why supposedly 20 armed commandos were in our convoy and when the team bus got going again, we were left on our own? I don’t have any answers to these questions.”
The attack has dealt a serious blow to cricket in Pakistan, where millions follow the game passionately, and deepened the isolation of a country already widely shunned by the international cricket community due to security fears.
All of the attackers escaped and there has been no claim of responsibility, although suspicion has fallen on the Islamic militants behind a bloody wave of violence in the country.
Pakistan is battling Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants holed up in the rugged and lawless northwest along its porous border with Afghanistan. More than 1,600 people have been killed in attacks here in the last 22 months.
The country’s powerful ISI military intelligence agency has fostered Islamist militant groups in Kashmir and Afghanistan over decades, and there are suspicions that some ISI elements have links to militants inside Pakistan.
On Wednesday, match referee Chris Broad — who was travelling with Davis and Taufel — said the attack could have been part of a wider conspiracy, slamming Pakistani security forces for leaving the vehicles like “sitting ducks.”
“We were promised high level security and in our hour of need, that security vanished,” he told reporters in Britain.
“On the first two days (of the Test), both buses left (the hotel) at the same time with escorts,” said Broad. “On this particular day, the Pakistan bus left five minutes after the Sri Lankan bus. Why?
“It went through my mind as we were leaving the hotel: ‘Where is the Pakistan bus?’ But there were times during the Karachi Test when the Sri Lankans went first and Pakistan went afterwards.”
Broad said the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had assured both players and officials of “presidential-style security” but that a high level of protection had clearly not been offered.
Authorities and PCB officials defended security measures. Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman said: “It was precisely because of police valour and bravery that the Sri Lankan team and the international umpires survived.”
PCB chairman Ijaz Butt angrily responded to Broad, saying: “How can he say that when six policemen died in the attack?”
Officials have offered a reward of 125,000 dollars for information about the men responsible for the well-planned attack. A large weapons cache, anti-personnel mines and two unexploded car bombs were found at the scene.