GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR: by John MillerNews Weekly
Lahore terrorist attack affects us all
, March 21, 2009
The recent Lahore terrorist attack appears to be fading rapidly from public consciousness. This should not be allowed to happen, warns John Miller.For my generation, cricket holds a special place in our lives. We were brought up on the great post-war heroes - all mighty men in their own way - Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, West Indians, Indians, Pakistanis and Poms. The week that ended February 7, 2009 marked a terrorist atrocity and a blizzard of publicity that should not be forgotten.
For many ex-players and commentators alike, the game will never be the same again. All pledges made by Pakistan concerning the safety of touring teams will never be acceptable, or accepted, especially in the light of domestic turmoil in that country as its weak central government attempts either to fight or to reach an accommodation with the fanatical Taliban, while at the same time pretending to the world that everything is normal.
The whole future of cricket teams touring what we fondly referred to as the Subcontinent must now be seen as extremely doubtful.
The facts are fairly simple. On Tuesday, March 3, 2009, the Sri Lankan cricket team, then touring Pakistan, was en route to, of all places, the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day's play in the second Test Match against the host nation.
The team bus was attacked by a group of 14 masked and heavily-armed terrorists. The bus was riddled with bullets and a number of the Sri Lankan team were injured. Unfortunately, six policemen and two civilians were killed.
Moreover, the terrorists got away by various means, their departure captured only on video (which can be found on the Internet). According to the respected Huffington Post
, the terrorists left casually with no fear of pursuit.
At the time of writing, despite governmental huffing and puffing and a few arrests "following lines of inquiry", none of the attackers has been apprehended or positively identified.
This atrocity was very much in the same mould as that of the Mumbai bombing and terrorist attack late last year. Both have to be seen against the backdrop of the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism in an arc that stretches across the nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
There has been speculation that the intention of the Lahore terrorists was to take the Sri Lankan cricket team hostage, but at this stage that is only conjecture. What is quite clear is that this was not a suicide attack but a hit-and-run terrorist assault.
The attack was against a team with no Caucasian members and, rather like the Mumbai massacre, it appears to be fading rapidly from public consciousness. This should not be allowed to happen.
Just for the record, I tried in vain in the English language versions of Pakistani newspapers to find out the names of the dead - it was the least I could do, but they did not appear.
Most of the cricketers were not seriously injured, but they were hospitalised and then sent home and the tour cancelled. Their names will be familiar to cricket aficionados: Thilan Samaraweera, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Chaminda Vaas and assistant coach Paul Farbrace.
In many respects, the team was lucky because the attackers had AK-47s, grenades and a RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade-launcher, which thankfully missed the bus. Sections of the British and Australians media have claimed that it could quite easily have been the English, Australian or New Zealand team. It was not, and the Sri Lankans were obviously the target.
Not unexpectedly, within minutes of the attack becoming public knowledge, various accusations were made about the identity of the terrorists and the Pakistani security service was criticised heavily for what appeared to be an ineffective defensive operation.
Like much of the Muslim world, Pakistan is rife with conspiracy theories, but the real answer has yet to be uncovered. I felt for the senior Pakistani policeman who commented bitterly that despite claims, mostly from foreigners, that Pakistani protection was inadequate, six of his men had died in the line of duty along with two civilians.Blame
Leading the domestic charge in a somewhat unseemly fashion was former Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, who could offer no cogent explanation. Some in Pakistan blamed India and its intelligence organisation RAW. Others in Sri Lanka blamed the Tamil Tigers LTTE. Predictably, one American website managed to blame the CIA - enough said.
To date no group has claimed responsibility. The first and best guess was Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which I have described elsewhere as being as potent as al Qaeda. However, there remains a distinct possibility that some other lesser-known affiliate of al Qaeda was behind the attack; but until such time as further information comes to hand, LeT remains the major suspect.
And it should not be forgotten that this organisation is well represented not only in Britain but Australia.- John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.