03/06/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN - SRI LANKA
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250 suspects arrested in Lahore attack. Zardari government under accusation

Pakistan's security forces say they have identified those responsible for the attack on Sri Lanka's national cricket team. Investigations point to domestic activity, and to the involvement of the Islamic terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Opposition parties in Islamabad and Colombo are criticizing their respective governments.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani police have arrested 250 people suspected of being involved in the attack on Sri Lanka's national cricket team. Four of those arrested are accused of direct responsibility for the terrorist attack, which killed six policemen and the driver of the team bus (in the photo, the coworkers of one of the victims pray on the site of the killing).

The provincial governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, has stated that the authorities have identified those responsible for the attack, but for now they do not intend to release any information. Salahuddin Niazi, head of the investigations, has said the same. The results will be communicated soon, "but for now," he added, "any comment or revelation could undermine our efforts."

Sources inside the administration say that the authorities are focusing on the domestic origin of the attack, and the direct implication of the Islamic terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. But there are also accusations against India: various commentators speak of involvement in the attack on the part of New Delhi's espionage services.

The ease with which the terrorists operated and then got away from the site of the attack continues to generate criticism of the government and police forces. Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervez has acknowledged the clear lapse in security, and accusations are growing in the country against the government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

The opposition is using the attack for political purposes, and linking it to the affair of brothers Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, who have been banned from public office by a sentence from the Supreme Court: Nawaz is the leader of the Muslim League party, and Shahbaz is the former governor of the province of Punjab, whose capital is Lahore. The opposition has called for protests on March 12, against the subservience of the judiciary to the president. A sit-in protest against the government is scheduled for the 16th, in front of the parliament in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the government of Sri Lanka is confirming its solidarity with Pakistan, although the communications minister, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, has acknowledged the serious lapse in Islamabad's security services. The opposition accuses the government of ignoring security warnings from Australia, but Minister Abeywardana replies: "We did not think about the internal problems of Pakistan when we approved the tour [of the national cricket team]."

The governments of the two countries intend to collaborate in the investigations, and have announced that they want to set up a joint working group to share experiences of the fight against terrorism.

(Qaiser Felix and Melani Manel Perera contributed to this report)

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