Published March 04, 2009
LAHORE, Pakistan – Police detained several suspects connected to the attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan, but said Wednesday they had made no progress in tracking down the gunmen that wounded seven players and killed six police guarding them.
Senior police official Haji Habibur Rehman said police raided locations in Lahore and surrounding districts and arrested "some suspects." He gave no details of their alleged roles, or the precise number detained, but said some were picked up at a Lahore hostel, where bloodstained clothes were also found after Tuesday's attack.
"We are after them, and we hope that God willing we will soon get a result," he told the GEO TV station.
He confirmed the arrests to The Associated Press, adding "so far we have not made any headway toward the perpetrators."
Pakistani police have a poor record of investigating terrorist attacks and, in the immediate aftermath of assaults, often round up people who are never charged.
Islamist militants are widely suspected to be behind the attack, but authorities have not explicitly stated this.
President Asif Ali Zardari told Sri Lanka's foreign minister that the "perpetrators of the heinous terrorist assaults on the Sri Lankan cricket team will be unearthed and dealt with iron hands," according to a statement.
Up to 14 heavily armed gunmen sprayed Sri Lanka's bus with dozens of bullets, plus rocket and grenade fire as it traveled to the Gaddafi Stadium for the continuation of the second test against Pakistan. The bus sped through the ambush and reached the safety of the stadium.
Besides the six police officers, a driver of a vehicle in the convoy was also killed. Seven Sri Lanka players, a Pakistani umpire and a coach from Britain were wounded, none with life-threatening injuries.
"Our guys were getting hurt and screaming, but we couldn't help each other," Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said when the team arrived home in Colombo early Wednesday. "None of us thought that we would come alive out of the situation."
Veteran Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan spoke of the chaos on the bus during the attack.
"All the while bullets were being sprayed at our bus, people around me were shouting," he said. "I am glad to be back."
But Jayawardene added that growing up in Sri Lanka, which has seen scores of terrorist attacks related to the country's civil war, 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.
The attack ended Pakistan's hopes of hosting international cricket teams — or any high profile sports events — for months, if not years. Even before Tuesday, most squads chose not to tour the cricket-obsessed country for security reasons
Australia, India and the West Indies had all canceled proposed tours, with Sri Lanka called up at short notice to fill the gap left by India's withdrawal. The two teams played an incident-free one-day series in Pakistan last month, but this was the host nation's first test matches in 14 months.
The International Cricket Council, which had already stripped Pakistan of the Champions Trophy one-day tournament, said it was reviewing the status of the 2011 World Cup, scheduled to be co-hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
New Zealand Cricket said its December tour to Pakistan was unlikely to proceed.
The assault bore many similarities to last year's three-day hostage drama in India's financial capital Mumbai.
Working in pairs, the attackers carried walkie-talkies and backpacks stuffed with water, dried fruit and other high-energy food — a sign 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 team's security detail.
Pakistan's Punjab provincial government took out advertisements in newspapers Wednesday offering a $125,000 reward.
The ad showed two alleged attackers carrying backpacks and guns. The image was taken from TV footage of the event.