The daring attack carried out by trained terrorists against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore bore the hallmarks of the tactics used in the Mumbai terror strike,according to Pakistani authorities.
“The attack resembles the Mumbai attacks,” the chief of police in Punjab province Khaled Farooq said,as the Lahore attack brought back memories of 26/11 though of not that scale and magnitude. Eight people,most of them policemen,were killed in Tuesday’s attack while the Mumbai strike claimed 183 lives.
Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer also shared Farooq’s assessment saying the incident was similar to Mumbai attacks on November 26,2008.
“I want to say it’s the same pattern,the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai,” Taseer said. Pakistan-based elements including Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have been blamed for the 26/11.
“That was also a commando action and this is also a commando operation,” Farooq said when asked how the attack was similar to Mumbai.
“They were trained terrorists and they attacked in a planned manner. The attackers looked like Pashtuns,” said Farooq.
Khusro Pervez,commissioner of Lahore,said,”It appears that the attackers were fully trained and they used lethal and sophisticated weapons”.
Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the terrorists were prepared,armed and systematic.
Habib-ur-Rehman said 12 masked gunmen were involved in the attack and they were armed with rockets,hand grenades,kalashnikovs. TV footages also showed backpacks,boxes containing dry fruits and medicines that were left behind by the terrorists before they fled.
Reports said the gunmen had tried to snatch a car in a market near to the scene of the attack as they fled from Liberty Chowk. During the Mumbai attack,two gunmen took a police car before Abdul Kasab was captured alive and the lone terrorist to be arrested by police.
Like in Mumbai,the gunmen were believed to be young and in the twenties.
TV channels aired footage of at least two of the gunmen,one of them wearing shalwar kameez and other jeans and a jacket. Both were armed with assault rifles and carrying backpacks.
The nature of the Tuesday’s attack–coordinated,using multiple gunmen armed with explosives –is reminiscent of the Mumbai strikes that raised tensions between Pakistan and India forcing cancellation of the tour of Indian cricket team to that country. The Sri Lankan cricket team filled in for the Indians who may have possibly escaped the terror attack.
Lahore police chief Rehman said two Sri Lankan cricketers were hit by bullets,one in the chest another in the leg,but did not elaborate.
Four suspects were detained in the Model Town area,police claimed,as the white Hyundai car loaded with grenades,explosives and other materials was also seized.
Reports said reserve umpire Ahsan Raza,who was travelling in a separate car,was seriously injured and had been operated on in a local hospital.
Hours after the ambush,authorities defused two car bombs before they could explode and recovered a cache of weapons in Lahore.
The Pakistani team was in its hotel at the time of the incident. Officials immediately took steps to prevent it from leaving the hotel.
The driver of the bus carrying the cricketers said the terrorists shot at his vehicle from all sides. A rocket fired from behind missed the bus and hit an electric pylon,he said.
The driver,who did not give his name,said he had seen a tall and bearded terrorist wearing a shalwar kameez emerge from a white car and open fire at his bus. Another terrorist lobbed a grenade that passed under the bus,he said.
“People started shouting in the bus and the players said ‘Go,go’. I drove the bus at high speed to the stadium. I then saw a Sri Lankan player was hit in the leg by a bullet. We called an ambulance and put him in it,” said the driver.
Rehman said the attackers,armed with rocket launchers,grenades and Kalashnikovs,had come to the spot in a rickshaw and cars.
Security forces cordoned off the area immediately after the attack and launched a search for the gunmen.
Sri Lanka had agreed to play in Pakistan after India and Australia deferred their scheduled trips for security reasons. After playing three ODIs in Pakistan,the Sri Lankan team had proceeded to India for five ODI matches and returned to Sri Lanka for the two Test matches.
“What has happened today in cricket can never happen in sports anywhere in the world. Obviously,my sympathies are with the Sri Lankan team,” said former Pakistani captain Javed Miandad.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“They were trained terrorists and they attacked in a planned manner. They (attackers) looked like Pashtuns,” Khaled Farooq,Punjab Province police chief,said.
TV channels aired footage of at least four of the terrorists,one of them wearing a brown shalwar kameez and the others jeans and jackets. The terrorists were moving in pairs.
One channel beamed footage of two terrorists mercilessly shooting at a policeman as he lay on the road.