Lahore attack grips Pakistan, police hunt gunmen
(For full cover of the attack, click [nSP478024])
* Pakistan "confronting evil" says President Zardari
* Hunt on for gunmen and those behind the attack
* Scores rounded up, maybe one genuine suspect
* FBI director in Pakistan for talks on Mumbai attack
By Kamran Haider
LAHORE, Pakistan, March 4 (Reuters) - Pakistani police hunted on Wednesday for the dozen gunmen who ambushed Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore, as the world shuddered at the nuclear-armed state's inability to contain rising militancy.
Officials were groping for clues to who was behind the seemingly well-planned attack by heavily armed militants.
Desperate for leads, police rounded up scores of people without establishing any link, according to officials, though one mid-level officer in the investigation said a cellphone had been found that had led to the arrest of one genuine suspect.
Pakistan has reeled under a wave of bomb and gun attacks in recent years, mostly carried out by Islamist militants linked to the Taliban or al Qaeda, but arch nationalists would relish a link being found between rival India and the Lahore attack.
Pakistan's pro-West President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in a column for the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the "terrorist attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore shows once again the evil we are confronting".
Prayers were offered at police headquarters late Tuesday for the seven people killed in the attack -- six Pakistani police and the driver of a bus carrying match officials.
Relatives then took the bodies to be buried near their homes.
The targeting of a visiting cricket team from a friendly country stunned Pakistanis whose love of the sport only comes second to religion in terms of forging a spirit of unity.
"Terrorism has hit at the core of what Pakistanis, across class, ethnic and political divide, love -- the game of cricket," wrote security analyst Nasim Zehra in the News daily.
The reverberations were felt across the cricketing world and beyond, with U.S. President Barack Obama expressing deep concern.
"This was very much an existentialist threat to Pakistan itself," Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller held talks with Interior Ministry officials in Islamabad on Wednesday to follow up on the probe into a militant attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last November that killed at least 170 people. Mueller had come from New Delhi where he met Indian officials. The United States wants Pakistan focused on fighting terrorism, but there are worries Zardari's civilian government could be engulfed by multiple crises less than a year after taking power.
Elections to parliament's upper house, the Senate, will be held on Wednesday under the shadow of a crisis that gripped Pakistan for the past week and sent share prices tumbling.
But the Karachi index bounced nearly 4 percent by Wednesday afternoon thanks to support buying from state-run institutions.
Zardari dismissed the provincial government in Punjab led by his arch rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, after the Supreme Court decided Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif were disqualified from holding elective office.
The Sharifs say Zardari was behind the court decision and their party has begun street agitation in cities across Punjab.
Aside from militancy radiating across the northwest from the borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan desperately needs billions of dollars of aid to supplement a bailout by the International Monetary Fund last November.
The Lahore attack had echoes of the November attack on Mumbai, which led to the Indian cricket team cancelling its planned tour of Pakistan, and a Sri Lankan team taking its place.
Six members of the Sri Lankan team and a British coach were wounded in the daylight attack as their bus approached the cricket stadium. None was so seriously hurt as to be left behind when the squad departed for Colombo on Tuesday night.
In New Zealand, cricket officials expected to cancel a tour of Pakistan and play the series in a neutral venue.
The Punjab government has offered a reward of around $125,000 for information on the culprits.
Television footage showed gunmen wearing track suits and trainers and shalwar kameez, traditional long shirt and baggy pants. Some appeared to be barely 20 years old.
Journalists were shown weapons found at the scene and at other locations, including 10 AK-47 rifles, two rocket grenade launchers, 32 hand grenades and plastic explosives.
The group India blames for the Mumbai attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is based in Punjab province and was formerly headquartered near provincial capital Lahore.
A Daily Times editorial made another Punjabi-based group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, its prime suspect, because of a long track record of ties with al Qaeda. (Additional reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Jerry Norton)
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