Click on photo for Guardian’s early live feed
At least a dozen heavily armed gunmen remain at large after launching the commando-style assault on the Sri Lankan team, killing six policemen and two bystanders, and injuring seven players and officials. The driver of one of the buses in the team’s convoy was also killed.
In scenes reminiscent of the terror attacks on Mumbai in November, the gunmen opened fire with AK-47s, grenades and a rocket-launcher, spraying the team’s bus with bullets as it drove to the 60,000-seater Gaddafi stadium in Lahore. Television footage showed the assailants running through the streets, firing towards police lines.
The head of Pakistan’s interior ministry, Rehman Malik, said the country was “in a state of war” and the authorities were investigating whether the attackers had intended to take hostages. “The way they came prepared and in large numbers indicates such a plan,” he said.
But tonight attention was focusing on the apparently lax security arrangements, after a document emerged in the Pakistani media showing that local police had warned in writing of the possibility of the Sri Lankan team being targeted.
The letter, dated 22 January this year, from a member of the criminal investigation branch to the then provincial police chief, said he had “learnt” that an attack was planned on the Sri Lankan team, either at their hotel or between the hotel and the sports stadium.
Police and administration officials met on 23 January to assess the threat, but before action could be taken, the government of Punjab province – of which Lahore is the capital – run by the party of the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was dismissed, following a court ruling .
The federal government, led by Asif Zardari, then installed its own administration, and the upper ranks of the police and administration were replaced.
I won’t presume to offer political analysis in depth. Any nation in the world can suffer this sort of attack. All that is required is access to points of attack, weapons – and willing cannon fodder with a modicum of training.
The military requirements are pretty basic. They suit guerilla warfare as well as terrorism – the same context for diametrically opposed reasons.
Some places, some countries are easier than others. If the murderers in Lahore prove to be Islamist fundamentalists no one will be surprised. Life in Lahore can be as conducive to their passage proper as it is in Swat or Helmand. And that is the responsibility of the Pakistan governments, past and present. And their bankroll in Washington, DC.
UPDATE: Take the time to read through the individual tales of the survivors of this attempted massacre.