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Pakistan denies Indian link in Lahore attack
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | March 06, 2009 01:21 IST
Ruling out India's involvement, Pakistan on Thursday suspected al-Qaeda to be behind the audacious attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team as the investigators claimed to have identified the perpetrators.
Investigators have not found any evidence of India's involvement in the attack, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told reporters at the National Assembly in Islamabad [Images]. He also rejected speculation in media about possible involvement of LTTE [Images]. The possibility of al Qaeda's involvement in Tuesday's attack could not be ruled out, he said adding the preliminary report of the investigation will be ready by Friday.
As the authorities came under criticism after a dramatic video footage showed the gunmen moving leisurely after striking, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer said here "we have identified the people who have carried out the attacks. We are after them." He, however, did not give details or name any suspect. The Army and the intelligence agency, ISI, are helping in tracking down the gunmen, he said.
The governor said the investigators have found a large amount of weapons. "It was like that of a small army". The images of gunmen brazenly ambling through a bylane nearLiberty Chowk after the attack sparked a wave of angry criticism with former President Pervez Musharraf [Images] saying that the security forces' had failed to react quickly.
Malik also brushed aside speculation that the banned Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] or its top operative Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, currently in custody for his links with the Mumbai [Images] attacks, could be involved in the strike on the Sri Lankan team.
Taseer also brushed aside criticism of the security arrangements in Lahore by Sri Lankan players and other foreign cricket officials, saying there were "no security lapses". He dismissed criticism about the policemen failing to kill any of the attackers, saying the security personnel were assigned to protect the Sri Lankan team and not to chase the terrorists.
Pakistani investigators have so far drawn a blank in their efforts to trace the terrorists responsible for the attack despite detaining dozens of suspects and seizing weapons and other incriminating material during raids in Lahore and other parts of the country.
The sleuths are focussing on two suspects Babar Shahzad and a teenager named Dilawar Hussain arrested from a village at Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab and three more men detained in Lahore. The five men are believed to be "facilitators" of the terrorists who carried out the attack.
Police are also tracing the persons whose phone numbers were found on the SIM of the mobile phone left behind by the terrorists. Babar Shahzad reportedly purchased one of the SIMs used by the terrorists. There was also no official word on the number of suspects detained though media reports said over 50 people had been taken into custody for interrogation.
Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) Mushtaq Ahmed Sokhaira said investigations had indicated that the attackers belonged to Punjab, North West Frontier Province and tribal areas. Police had also seized a large number of items at the site of the attack, including weapons, explosives, walkie-talkies, a large quantity of dry fruit and food items and three auto-rickshaws and two vehicles used by the terrorists, Sokhaira said. Police are also questioning some Nigerian, Afghan and Uzbek nationals who were arrested during the raids.