In Pakistan, questions follow attack

Concern voiced on how team, police were ambushed

A woman placed flowers yesterday at a tribute to the slain police officers in Lahore, Pakistan, following Tuesday's attack. A woman placed flowers yesterday at a tribute to the slain police officers in Lahore, Pakistan, following Tuesday's attack. (Daniel Berehulak/ Getty Images)
By Rizwan Ali and Chris Brummitt
Associated Press / March 5, 2009
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LAHORE, Pakistan - A day after the ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team, Pakistanis asked yesterday how terrorists managed to attack such a high-profile target and escape unscathed.

Underscoring the unease, a referee caught up in the attack alleged that police abandoned him like a "sitting duck," and video showed the gunmen sauntering down a deserted side street, apparently leaving with no fear of pursuit.

Pakistani officials rejected the allegation by British match official Chris Broad, noting that six policemen guarding the convoy were killed when it was attacked by up to 14 heavily armed men near a stadium in Lahore.

But Broad's charge and the surveillance camera recording of the escaping gunmen triggered fresh questions about Pakistan's ability to prevent terrorist attacks, particularly in light of the government's pledge to give the Sri Lankan players and match officials the same level of protection afforded a head of state.

"It is a source of embarrassment at the international level," said Ahsan Iqbal, an opposition lawmaker. "This government should be ashamed and make those responsible for criminal negligence in their duties accountable."

The lapse was all the more shocking because Pakistan knew any incident would end, perhaps for years, its hopes of regularly hosting international sporting events. Even before Tuesday's ambush, most teams chose not to visit this cricket-obsessed country because of rising violence by Islamic extremists.

Police gave conflicting accounts of the investigation. One top police official said several suspects had been taken into custody in connection with the attack. Hours later, however, another denied anyone had been detained or even questioned.

Islamic militants were widely suspected in the attack, but authorities did not explicitly say that.

Pakistan has a web of extremist networks, some with links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, that have attacked foreign civilians in a bid to destabilize the government and punish it for supporting the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Broad, the referee, was traveling in a van in the same convoy as the Sri Lankan team bus when the attackers opened fire with automatic weapons, grenades, and at least one rocket launcher, killing his driver and critically wounding a fellow official.

"There was not a sign of a policeman anywhere," Broad said yesterday. "They had clearly left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks."

Seven players and an assistant coach on the bus were wounded, though none suffered life-threatening injuries.

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