US President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed deep concern over a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore while the State Department said it was an assault on ‘positive relations’ between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
‘Obviously, we are very deeply concerned,’ said the US president when asked to comment on the attack which killed eight people and wounded seven members of the Sri Lankan team.
During press availability at the White House with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr Obama declined to offer further comments, saying, ‘the details are still coming in, so I do not want to be too specific.’
Meanwhile, at the State Department Deputy Spokesman Gordon K. Duguid described the terrorist act as an attack on ‘positive relations’ between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
‘We condemn this vicious attack on innocent civilians but also on the positive relations that Pakistan and Sri Lanka are trying to enjoy,’ he told a briefing.
‘This is not just an attack on individuals. This is an attack on peaceful, normal relations, and we utterly condemn this terrorist attack,’ Mr Duguid said.
While expressing sympathies for those killed or wounded in the attack, the US official noted that ‘the Pakistani police … were extremely brave in protecting their charges and should be commended.’
Mr Duguid’s comments led to immediate speculations in Washington’s diplomatic circles about the identity of the attackers, although so far no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the act.
Some observers pointed out that if the aim was to further isolate Pakistan in the international community, the terrorists operating from the tribal areas could be the immediate suspect.
Others, however, noted that if the aim was to hurt relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which is a big purchaser of arms and ammunition from Pakistan, then there could be two obvious suspects: militant groups backed by Indian intelligence agencies or Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatists.
The observers argue that if there’s an Indian involvement, it would be seen as countering the Mumbai terror attack, which pushed relations between India and Pakistan to a new low.
The other possibility – the involvement of Tamil separatists – could not be ruled out either, particularly after the Sri Lankan government’s recent victories against the LTTE, which appear to have decimated the terrorist group.
Meanwhile, at the State Department, spokesman Duguid indicated that the US Embassy in Islamabad might issue a fresh travel warning for citizens after the attack on the Sri Lankan.
‘The embassy is very good at keeping the travel warnings updated. I don't know when our last one was, but we'll —we'll look into that,’ said Mr Duguid.