The Dark World: The Attack in Lahore

by Jeff Abbott on March 4, 2009

My next book, TRUST ME, deals with the next wave of criminal and terrorist networks that are emerging around the world–and one ordinary man’s battle to defeat such a network. We just saw a tragic example of this new kind of criminal strategy this week in Lahore, Pakistan.

The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan may not have the impact in America that it should (because we don’t “get” cricket or understand its huge cultural importance in south Asia) but make no mistake–this is an attack not just on Sri Lanka (the only international cricket team willing to come to Pakistan in the past fourteen months)–this is a direct attack on Pakistan and its people and the trust that exists between the people and their government. It is an attack on Pakistan’s national sport (cricket is to Pakistan what baseball is to America) in the heart of Pakistan’s cultural capital. It is a statement that ordinary, everyday life in Pakistan is at risk.

With all the finger pointing going on in Pakistan as blame is spread, the only message clearly coming through is that the state is incapable of protecting its citizens and its foreign visitors. (It should be noted that several Pakistani police officers laid down their lives to protect the Sri Lankans and the bystanders.) But according to a cricket official who survived the attack, the security promised the Sri Lankans was never at the level it was supposed to be, and too many of the police melted away during the attack. 
None of the twelve terrorists were captured or wounded in the attack. They came, they killed, they left.
These terrorists are acting more like insurgents. They don’t care so much about killing innocent people and policemen doing their job; what they want to kill is the peoples’ trust in the state to keep them safe. The attackers used strategies similar to the attack last year in Mumbai; weapons hidden in backpacks, use of walkie-talkies and smartphones, and they were even prepared with stashes of food, suggesting their ultimate goal might have been to take the team hostage. Twelve guys, armed with protein bars and antitank missiles–yes, antitank missiles, fired in a busy street at a sporting team’s bus. Think about that for a second. It’s like something out of an over-the-top action film. But it’s happening.
This is the next wave of crime in this century: highly mobile, well-armed, and motivated networks that out-operate the police force of a state in a calculated bid to rob the government of its ability to rule in confidence. As tragic as the loss of life is, this attack is not about killing people; it is about killing trust. Look for other groups around the world–especially the drug cartels in Mexico that are in a virtual civil war with the government–to study this attack very carefully. And governments need to study this as well, because they are going to face more of these kinds of attacks in the years to come.

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