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Footage raises new questions about Pakistan attack

Pakistan came under new criticism about its security forces Thursday as dramatic footage emerged of the cricket attackers making a leisurely getaway from the scene of their deadly assault.

The images of the gunmen calmly walking off, without police or security forces chasing them, will add to speculation swirling around Tuesday’s brazen daytime attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team that left eight people dead.

Pakistan is steeped in political violence, and suspicion has fallen mainly on Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Police have brought in around two dozen people for questioning but so far have no leads.

Up to 12 men attacked the convoy of officials, coaches and players, firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher as the vehicles approached the cricket ground in the city of Lahore. The attackers fled without a trace.

The new footage, captured by closed-circuit cameras, showed two suspects wearing rucksacks and ambling down the road, apparently untroubled after the carnage took place. They then jump on motorbikes and speed off.

“We are doing our best to unravel the conspiracy,” Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman told AFP. Police released sketches of four suspects but have made no breakthrough in the case. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault, which killed six police and two civilians, and wounded 19 people.

Pakistan lawmakers accused the government of a “serious security lapse” and highlighted reports that the authorities were warned of a possible attack.

The Senate foreign relations committee “urged the government to investigate how such a serious lapse of security could occur when there were reports from within the government agencies that such an attack could be in the offing.”

More than 1,600 people have been killed in attacks in Pakistan over the past 22 months, and Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have forged a de facto safe haven in the country’s lawless northwest along the border with Afghanistan.

For decades, Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence agency has fostered Islamist militant groups in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and there are suspicions that some ISI elements have links to militants inside the country.

Chris Broad, the match referee, angered officials by saying Pakistan security forces had left the convoy vehicles like “sitting ducks.” “We were promised high level security and in our hour of need, that security vanished,” he told reporters in Britain.

Simon Taufel, an Australian umpire caught in the attack, said their bus had been left unprotected once the assault began.

LAHORE, AFP

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