Lahore attacks bears LeT’s imprint

Governor of Punjab province of Pakistan Salman Taseer said the perpetrators of Mumbai and Lahore attacks were the same 

Rakhi Chakrabarty Delhi, Hardnews

Cricket as a means to foster friendship in times of terror took a hit in Pakistan today. Gunmen opened fire on the bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers near the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore this morning. At least eight were killed and six cricketers injured.

Among those killed are policemen providing security to the Sri Lankan cricketers. The cricketers were in a bullet-proof bus ferrying them to the stadium for the day's match with the host team.The gunmen were armed with rocket launchers, grenades and AK-47s. A 25-minute gunbattle with the security forces ensued. But, the assailants managed to melt away.

The numbers of gunman are not yet clear though the Lahore police claimed there were around 12 of them.The upscale Liberty market, where the incident occurred, turned into a battleground with bullets flying from automatic weapons, bursts of machine gunfire ringing out followed by blasts. Sound of gunfire was heard from inside the stadium, too.

Soon after the attack, governor of Punjab province of Pakistan Salman Taseer visited the spot. He said, "This is similar to the 26/11 Mumbai attack." According to Taseer, the perpetrators of Mumbai and Lahore attacks were the same. Television footage of the gunmen on the rampage was reminiscent of Mumbai carnage. And, the gunmen, carrying backpacks and armed to the teeth, bore striking resemblance to the Mumbai attackers Ajmal Amir Kasab et al.

In an interview to an Indian television channel, former ISI chief Hamid Gul trotted out a tit-for-tat theory. He saw the hand of India behind the Lahore attacks. But, Pakistan security forces also admit that the gunmen were trained and took the forces on duty by surprise.

In the wake of the Lahore attack, minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma said that India's decision of not sending its team to Pakistan has been proved correct. "It was not possible for India to expose its cricket team to the grave threat posed by the forces of violence in Pakistan," he said.

Was this attack on Sri Lankan cricketers engineered by the LTTE? The outfit has its back to the wall after Sri Lanka launched an offensive. The LTTE-ISI nexus is a reality. But, security expert Ajai Sahni told Hardnews that the LTTE would not do something like this which would obviously embarrass the ISI on its home turf.

According to intelligence sources, the operation bears the imprint of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). And, could have been done to grab worldwide publicity.

It could have been sponsored by the Al-Qaeda-Taliban combine. The Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan has an agenda to target the Pakistan government. The Swat deal between the Pakistan government and the Taliban for ceasefire in exchange of imposition of Sharia in seven districts including Malakand, Swat and Buner was a shot in the arm for the Taliban. This area is about 130 km from Islamabad.

Security analysts felt the Taliban would try to make inroads deep into Pakistan to push their agenda all across the country. Their target obviously would be the Pakistan government and this attack could well be a means to send across a chilling message.