Q+A-Who could have attacked Sri Lanka's cricketers?

(For main story on the attack, click [nSP392030])

March 4 (Reuters) - Pakistani police hunted on Wednesday for gunmen who mounted a bold attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore as officials tried to figure out who was behind it.

The attack on Tuesday killed seven Pakistanis -- six police and the driver of a bus carrying match officials. Six members of the Sri Lankan team and a British coach were among 16 wounded in the daylight attack as their bus approached the cricket stadium.

The attack rekindled questions about the stability of the nuclear-armed U.S. ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

Mounting insecurity has deepened a sense of crisis around President Asif Ali Zardari's civilian government less than a year after it took power.

Zardari toppled the provincial government in Punjab last week, and his arch rival Nawaz Sharif is ramping up political agitation, aggravating the worrisome law and order situation.

Investigators are yet to identify who was behind that attack, which many analysts believe was meant to further destabilise the government.

Here is a list of possible suspects.


Pakistan has been struck by a wave of suicide attacks and bomb blasts by al Qaeda, Taliban and militant groups linked to them.

The attack in Lahore was carried out by around a dozen gunmen, and many observers, including Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, noted similarities with the attack on the Indian city of Mumbai in November.

India and the United States blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, a jihadi group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan has arrested a few LeT members suspected of being behind the Mumbai plot, even though the group, according to analysts, has had ties with Pakistani intelligence in the past.

Many past attacks have been attributed to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Movement of Taliban, Pakistan), a loose umbrella group of factions based in northwest Pakistan on the Afghan border. It is led by Baitullah Mehsud, an al Qaeda cohort. He is suspected of organising the assassination of Zardari's wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in December 2007.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Sunni Muslim militant group, is regarded as one of al Qaeda's principal cat's paws in Pakistan. LeJ, made up of cadres largely drawn from Punjab, specialises in targeting minority Shi'ite Muslims, but graduated to high-profile attacks like the suicide truck bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel in September last year which killed at least 55 people.

Jaish-e-Mohammad is another Punjab-based militant group that has focused on fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, but there are signs its members have broadened their remit. A Jaish connection was made to one of the assassination attempts on former President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003, and there was a Jaish presence at the Red Mosque uprising in Islamabad in 2007. Jaish members have also surfaced in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Harkat-ul Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI), is another Islamist militant group fighting in Kashmir that forged al Qaeda links. HUJI carried the suicide attack that killed 11 Frenchmen and two Pakistanis outside Karachi's Sheraton Hotel. The New Zealand cricket team was staying at the same hotel, and promptly aborted its tour.


Several guerrilla groups are waging a low-key insurgency in gas-rich Baluchistan province on the border with Afghanistan. Some have taken responsibility for small attacks in Lahore in the past. A group calling itself the Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an American working for the United Nations a month ago. The attack on the Sri Lankan team is on a vastly different scale to anything carried out by any Baluch group.


In Sri Lanka, official suspicion will fall on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a rebel group close to military defeat in northern Sri Lanka and which has a long history of carrying out deadly guerrilla attacks. There has been no clear evidence the Tigers have operations or links to Pakistan.

Pakistan has good relations with Sri Lanka and has given training and supplied arms to the Sri Lankan military fighting the Tamil Tiger rebels.


Some Pakistani hawks and nationalists, including a junior cabinet minister, blamed India for the attack in Lahore, speculating it was both payback for Mumbai and an attempt to spoil Pakistan's ties with Sri Lanka.

But Information Minister Sherry Rehman, the principal government spokesperson, denied there was any information of any Indian involvement, saying investigations were still underway. (Writing by Sanjeev Miglani and Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Jerry Norton)