"We came to Lahore two days before the attack," Zubair shouted through his mask, referring to the group of attackers.

He said they had lodged in a small house on the outskirts of Lahore.

The Sri Lankan cricket squad was being taken by bus to the ground in Lahore for the third day of the second Test against Pakistan when up to 12 men attacked the convoy of officials, coaches and players.

Firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher as the convoy was nearing the Gaddafi Stadium, they began a firefight which turned the neighbourhood into a battle zone.

Group identified

All the seven accused belong to a previously unknown group named as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab network, Rathore said.

He said the mastermind was a man named Farooq, who remained at large.

CCTV video showed the assailants making their getaway with minimum resistance [AFP]
Rathore said the other six men - one of whom he accused of being  involved in a rocket attack on Pervez Musharraf, the former president, in 2007 - may have fled to the Waziristan tribal region on the Afghanistan border.

Pakistani police also said on Wednesday they had arrested three men suspected of planning a suicide attack near Islamabad, and another suspect from an al-Qaeda-linked group in Karachi.

"Police have arrested three suspected terrorists with explosives and suicide jackets in Rawalpindi," a senior police official in Rawalpindi, neighbouring Islamabad, said

Another police official confirmed the arrests and said the three men were apparently planning to carry out attacks in Rawalpindi.

Neither official released further details or the identities of the men, saying it would jeopardise the investigation.

Karachi arrest

Separately, police raided a house in Karachi and arrested a man suspected of planning an attack in the port city.

"We arrested one man Wednesday morning and recovered two kilograms of explosives and a gun from him," Raja Umer Khitab, a police official, told the AFP news agency.

"He belongs to banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi," Khitab said.

The detainee, identified as Irfan Islam, was involved in "several sectarian killings" and had contacts with fighters in North Waziristan on the Afghan border, he said.

Khitab said another suspect escaped.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is regarded as the fiercest of Pakistan's Sunni extremist outfits with links to al-Qaeda, and is known to have mounted numerous attacks on the minority Shia Muslim community since it was formed in 1996.