IPL security concerns intensify
Security fears regarding the IPL have intensified after a string of statements over the past 24 hours. The 313 Brigade, Al-Qaeda's operational arm in Pakistan, issued a warning to "the international community" not to send its representatives to major sports events being staged in India, including the IPL. Following this, the firm in charge of the league's security said organisers would have to reconsider hosting the IPL should the threat supercede safety strategies.
There was good news for the IPL, though, in a retraction by the Shiv Sena of its stand barring Australian cricketers in Mumbai in response to the attacks on Indians in Australia, yet it appeared scant consolation in the face of the terror threat.
In its message, delivered to Asia Times Online, the 313 Brigade said: "We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, IPL and Commonwealth Games. If they do, they will be responsible for the consequences."
The Hockey World Cup will be held in New Delhi from February 28 and the Commonwealth games are scheduled in the same city in October. Both are single-city events and will be relatively easier to secure than the multi-city IPL - it currently has 12 venues, with Cuttack being added on Tuesday.
The 313 Brigade is believed to have links with other terrorist outfits and its commander is believed to have played a role in the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.
That statement drew a gloomy response from Bob Nicholls, the head of Nicholls Steyn and Associates, which is running the security operation for the IPL. He told the Sydney Morning Herald it may force the organisers into a re-think.
"It gets to a point where you cannot go further than that which is being provided,'' Nicholls said. ''We only have control over certain aspects of it. If we get to a certain stage beyond which you can't go … our role and commitment is that we will put in the best measures there can be. What we cannot control is circumstances beyond that. There would need to be serious considerations at that point.''
Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association, said security consultant Reg Dickason would factor the warning into his report to the Australian players involved in the IPL.
''We were told over the years that cricketers and other sportspeople would not be targeted, that the risk was collateral damage, being in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' Marsh said. ''That changed with [the ambush of the Sri Lankan team in] Lahore last year, and news of a threat from a very well-known terrorist group is concerning. This is another issue to be concerned about. Not a lot has changed with regard to our process and it's important to note that the situation is fluid after what happened in Pune (a bomb blast) at the weekend and this development.
''Reg will give us a point-in-time report and then he will continue to keep us informed. Everyone is going to have to weigh up their own circumstances, but we have relied on Reg for a long time and the players have a high level of trust in his advice.''