Taufel, Murali hint at conspiracy behind Lahore terror attack (Lead, Changing dateline)

March 5th, 2009 - 5:11 pm ICT by IANS  

London, March 5 (IANS) Australian umpire Simon Taufel and Sri Lankan spinner Murali Muralitharan say there may have been a conspiracy behind Tuesday’s terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
Both have spoken about an inexplicable change made to the departure timing of the Pakistani team’s bus that had the effect of sparing the host nation’s team from the terrorists’ bullets.

Taufel told The Times that while the two teams had travelled to the stadium together on the previous two days, on the day of the attack the bus carrying the Pakistan team left five minutes later.

“One thing I have been impressed about in Pakistan is that logistically they are usually very well organised. They normally depart on time,” he said in comments quoted Thursday.

“We knew we were departing at 8.30 a.m on the third morning. As to why the Pakistani team left at a different time, I don’t know.”

Muralitheran suggested the terrorists may have had inside information.

“Somehow in this incident there were no police with guns on the bus - if someone was there with a gun we would have had a chance of defending ourselves,” Muralitharan told Radio5aa in Adelaide, Australia.

“Normally all the buses go and we have four or five escorts. We left at 8.30 a.m and Younus Khan (with the Pakistan team bus) at 8.35 a.m. We divided into two - maybe they knew the information for the right time,” the Sri Lankan cricketer added.

Taufel told The Times there were three vans and four police motorcyles in their convoy but after the attacks they were on their own: “There were no other police vehicles, or any other police defending us. There was no one protecting us during the firing.”

“We were isolated, left alone, unaccounted for. We were not given the same security as the playing staff. We were defenceless, helpless, left on our own. I am angry that we were isolated, that we didn’t get the same level of security. I am angry.

“You tell me why supposedly 20 armed commandos were in our convoy and when the team bus got going again, we were left on our own? I don’t have any answers to these questions,” Taufel added.

Mehar Mohammed Khalil, the driver of the Sri Lankan bus who was debriefed by Pakistani police Tuesday evening, denied that the Pakistani team had been delayed by five minutes, or that the security escort had been split between the two teams.

However, The Times said, Khalil’s version of events has now been contradicted by Muralitharan and three other passengers in the convoy.

Younis Khan, the Pakistani captain, told a news conference Tuesday: “Thank God we decided to leave our hotel five minutes after the Sri Lankans.”

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