A terrorist assault team attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The “well-trained terrorists” killed five policemen and two civilians, and wounded seven Sri Lankan cricketers and 11 security and rescue personnel. Two of the Sri Lankans “received serious bullet injuries” while the head coach received minor injuries, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
The attack took place as a bus transporting the Sri Lankan team was traveling to the Gaddafi Stadium. Twelve well-armed “masked gunmen” ambushed the bus and its police escorts, sparking a 25-minute gun battle, Lahore’s police chief told AFP.
“There were 12 masked gunmen,” Habib-ur Rehman, Lahore’s Chief of Police chief told reporters. “They appeared to be well-trained terrorists. They came on rickshaws. They were armed with rockets, hand grenades, kalashnikovs.” Police eventually fended off the attack, and the terrorists disappeared into the streets of Lahore. The attack has led the Sri Lankan team to cancel its Pakistan tour.
The fallout from today’s attack was swift. In a major blow to Pakistan, the International Cricket Council has banned Pakistan from hosting international games until the security situation changes “dramatically.”
“In the current situation it is clearly a very dangerous place,” David Morgan, president of the International Cricket Council, told reporters today. “Things will have to change dramatically in Pakistan in my opinion if any of the games are to be staged there. I think that international cricket in Pakistan is out of the question until there is a very significant change, a regime change I guess.”
In the past, other countries, such as Australia, had previously expressed concerns about security for their cricket teams traveling in Pakistan.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, the strike is similar to a wave of military-styled assaults by al Qaeda-linked terror groups against civilian targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Yemen. The most recent attack took place in Kabul, where what is believed to be a Haqqani Network cell assaulted the Justice and Education ministries as well as the Prisons Directorate headquarters. The deadly November 2008 terror assault on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai was also carried out by a well-armed, well trained assault squad from the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a host of Pakistani jihadi terror groups have joined forces to battle both the Pakistani military in the Northwest Frontier Province and the NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has revived its paramilitary army, formerly known as the 055 Brigade and now known as the Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army. The Shadow Army contains fighters from each of these terror groups, and trains in camps in the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas.
Pakistani security officials and pundits have tried to shift the blame for today’s assault to India. Khushro Pervaiz, Lahore’s Commissioner, said that India’s involvement in the assault cannot be ruled out.
Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency who has strong ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda, told Geo News that the attack was part of a conspiracy by India to paint Pakistan as a terror state. Gul is thought to be one of the Pakistanis behind the Mumbai assault, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal last year.