DateLine: 18th June 2009
Pakistani police said Wednesday they had arrested one of seven men from a shadowy Taliban-linked group accused of plotting the deadly attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
Six policemen and two civilians were killed and seven Sri Lankan squad members were injured when militants launched a gun and grenade assault on the team as they travelled to a match in the eastern city on March 3.
"We have identified seven men accused of planning the attack and one of them has been arrested," Lahore police chief Pervez Rathor told reporters in the city, announcing the first arrest in connection with the ambush.
The attackers' motive had been to take the Sri Lankan cricket team hostage, Rathor added.
He identified the suspect as Zubair, also known by his alias Nek Mohammad, who appeared at the televised press conference in Lahore with his face completely covered in a black mask.
"We came to Lahore two days before the attack," Zubair shouted through his mask, adding that they had lodged in a small house on the outskirts of the capital of Punjab province.
Up to 12 gunmen are believed to have taken part in the assault on the bus carrying the Sri Lankan players before all escaping on motorbikes down the narrow alleys of the busy city, police said at the time.
All the seven accused belong to a previously unknown group named as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab network, the police chief said, adding that the mastermind was a man named Farooq, who remained at large.
Rathor said the other six men -- one of whom he accused of being involved in a rocket attack on former president Pervez Musharraf in 2007 -- may have fled to the lawless tribal region of Waziristan on the Afghan border.
The name of Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab first surfaced late last month, when a US group monitoring Islamist organisations published a claim by them for a gun and bomb attack on a Lahore police building on May 27.
Wednesday was the first time that Pakistani security forces mentioned the existence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, but they gave no further details.
It is unclear whether the group is linked to Pakistan's main umbrella organisation of Islamist militants named Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), led by feared warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who is holed up in Waziristan.
On March 3, the Sri Lankan cricket squad were being taken by bus to the ground in Lahore for the third day of the second Test against Pakistan when the gunmen attacked the convoy of officials, coaches and players.
Firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher as the convoy was nearing the Gaddafi stadium, they began a firefight which turned the upmarket district into a battlezone.
Initial speculation was that the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group accused of the deadly Mumbai siege late last year was also behind the cricket attack, but they denied any links to the commando-style assault.
Pakistan is in the grip of a worsening insurgency by Islamist extremists, with more than 1,995 people killed in attacks since July 2007.
Lahore has not been spared, with the most recent raid on the police building in late May leaving 24 people dead and 300 wounded.
That attack was claimed by Mehsud's TTP a day after the claim by Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab appeared on the Internet.
TTP also said they were responsible for a March 30 assault on a police training centre on the outskirts of the city which left seven police cadets and a civilian dead.
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)
Copyright © 2004-2017 Micro Electronics Technology Inc., and CricketArchive