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Lahore top cop admits security lapse: Report
Published on 6 Mar. 2009 12:19 AM IST
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A Pakistani official admitted that "very vivid" security lapses allowed gunmen to ambush Sri Lanka's cricket team and escape, local media reported on Thursday, as investigators chased down leads in hopes of a breakthrough in the case. The acknowledgment followed allegations by a referee caught up in Tuesday's attack that police abandoned him like a "sitting duck." Video from the area showed the gunmen sauntering down a deserted side street, apparently leaving with no fear of pursuit. But other Pakistani officials have defended the security measures, noting six policemen guarding the convoy were killed when it was attacked by up to 14 heavily armed men near a stadium in the heart of the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Seven players, an umpire and an assistant coach were wounded. The attack occurred despite government pledges to give the Sri Lankan players and match officials the same level of protection afforded a head of state. Lahore commissioner Khusro Pervez admitted in an interview with local media that the gunmen should have been battled by ``back-up police support which didn't arrive.'' 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. ``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.'' Police have given 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. Officials reached on Thursday said they were pursuing clues in several cities. 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-Qaida 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. Referee Chris Broad was travelling 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 Wednesday after flying back to Britain. ``They had clearly left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks.'' He did not say how he managed to escape. Other witnesses described police trading fire with the gunmen for about 15 minutes, but at least one of the Sri Lankan players said the attackers appeared to fire at will at the bus.

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