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Pak arrests Lankan cricket team 'attacker', blames Mehsud

By M Zulqernain in Lahore
June 17, 2009 21:58 IST
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Pakistan on Wednesday announced the arrest of a terrorist allegedly involved in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore and said that the Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud's group was behind the audacious strike.

Identifying the arrested person as Zubair alias Nek Mohammad, Lahore police chief Pervaiz Rathore told a mediapersons in Lahore that the March 3 attack was carried out by "Punjabi Taliban" militants, affiliated to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of feared terrorist leader Mehsud.

Rathore said Zubair had carried out the attack with six accomplices. All seven terrorists who took part in the assault belonged to the "Punjabi Taliban", he said.

Zubair had identified Aqeel alias Arslan alias Dr Usman as the mastermind of the attack, the police chief said. Rathore identified the other five terrorists involved in the attack as Samiuallah alias Ijaz, Adnan alias Sajjad, Ajmal alias Ehsan, Farooq Ahmed and Omar alias Abdul Wahab.

Most of them hailed from Dera Ghazi Khan. Samiullah, who belonged to Nankana Sahib, arranged transportation that was used by the terrorists to escape after the attack.

Eight persons were killed and over 20 others, including several Sri Lankan players, injured when the terrorists ambushed the team's motorcade at the busy Liberty traffic roundabout near the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore.

The Sri Lankan cricket team was being taken for the third day of the second test against Pakistan when terrorists armed with guns, rocket launcher and grenades launched the strike.

Rathore said Zubair had revealed that Aqueel alias Arslan was also involved in an attack on former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Aqeel acted on the instructions of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, he added.

Zubair was identified from CCTV footage of the terrorists leaving the site of the attack, Rathore said. Zubair told his interrogators that the terrorists wanted to hijack the Lankan team's bus to secure the release of some arrested colleagues and to press the government to accept other demands.

Rathore, however, parried a question from media on whose release the terrorists had wanted to secure.

As a number of banned groups, including the Lashker-e-Tayiba, have joined hands with the Pakistani Taliban, it was earlier believed that the attackers wanted to secure the release of five LeT leaders arrested for alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

The police chief also retracted his earlier statement that India was involved in the attack.

"It is premature to comment on Indian involvement. However, investigations are underway in this regard," he told a questioner.

The police also presented Zubair, his face covered with a cloth, before the media. "We gathered in Mansoora along with Arslan alias Dr Usman who provided us with weapons," he said.

He said his accomplices managed to escape to Waziristan after the attack. The central headquarters of Jamaat-e-Islami is located in Mansoora. JI spokesman Anwar Niazi dismissed the impression that the terrorists resided in Mansoora.

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M Zulqernain in Lahore
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