Around Two Dozen Held after Pakistan Attack

LAHORE ~ Pakistani officials said around two dozen people were detained over the ambush on Sri Lanka’s cricket team, which has raised new questions about the government’s war on militants.

The detainees were being questioned as police widened the hunt for clues in Tuesday’s brazen attack, which left six police and two civilians dead. Seven Sri Lankan cricketers and a coach were among 19 people wounded.

Up to 12 men armed with grenades, a rocket-launcher and automatic weapons opened fire in an assault which has stirred up doubts about Pakistan’s control over militants linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan had set up a special investigation committee which had “carried out very good work in very short time” but he refused to elaborate.

“Around two dozen people have been picked up – most of them belonging to banned or outlawed organisations – in the hope of finding a clue to the identity of the escaped terrorists,” one police official told the AFP newswire.

The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media, indicated the gunmen were not among those detained.

Officials have offered a reward of 125,000 dollars for information about the men behind the well-planned attack. A large weapons cache, anti-personnel mines and two unexploded car bombs were found at the scene.

A second security official confirmed around two dozen people had been detained in multiple raids in Lahore, where the assault took place. All the attackers fled and there has been no claim of responsibility.

One man was arrested in the hope of providing information about an alleged attacker traced through a discarded mobile phone card, an official said.

“Some people have been detained and the investigations are progressing in the right direction,” Lahore city police chief Habib-ur Rehman said.

The attack is a serious blow for cricket in Pakistan, where millions follow the game passionately, and has deepened the isolation of a country now shunned by much of the world cricket community.

In Manchester, match referee Chris Broad, who survived the attack, slammed the Pakistani security forces for providing insufficient protection.

“I am angry at the Pakistani security forces,” said the ex-England batsman, adding he had expressed concerns for his safety before the tour.

“We were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished and they left us to be sitting ducks,” Broad said, in comments that drew an angry response from officials in Pakistan.

“It was precisely because of police valor and bravery that the Sri Lankan team and the international umpires survived,” police chief Rehman told AFP.

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