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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bad Losers

Gunmen have attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team on its way to play in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

At least six policemen escorting the team bus were killed, along with a driver. Seven cricketers and an assistant coach were injured.

Pakistani officials said about 12 gunmen were involved and grenades and rocket launchers have been recovered.

Officials said the incident bore similarities to deadly attacks in Mumbai in India last November.

Pakistani cricket was already suffering from serious security concerns

Pakistan invited Sri Lanka to tour only after India's cricket team pulled out of a scheduled cricket tour on security grounds, following the Mumbai attacks.

And International Cricket Council president David Morgan told the BBC it would be "very difficult for international cricket to be hosted in Pakistan for quite some time to come".

Evacuation

Reports suggest 10 to 12 gunmen ambushed the team coach and its accompanying police detail on the Liberty Square roundabout in the heart of Lahore, as the convoy was on the way to the Gaddafi stadium for a Test match.

Satellite image of Lahore

The BBC's Barbara Plett, in Islamabad, says accounts suggest the attack was sophisticated in nature, with one group of gunmen firing a rocket-propelled grenade in order to create a diversion, while others then approached, firing guns on the convoy.

She says the gunmen - two of whom were shown in TV pictures carrying backpacks - seemed to be well-trained.

Sri Lanka's assistant coach Paul Farbrace, who is British, told the BBC: "There was a lot of shouting and people hitting the floor and when I got to the floor I realised that the blood that I could see was coming from me - luckily superficial wounds."

The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara told Australia's ABC radio that he and his team mates probably owed their lives to their bus driver.

"We had an amazing driver who just kept driving the bus straight through all of that to the ground and that's probably what saved us."

Officials in Lahore said two members of the Sri Lankan team, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana, were sent to hospital.

'Security failure'

The Pakistani politician Imran Khan, a former captain of the country's cricket team, said the Sri Lankan visitors had been given inadequate protection.

"This was one of the worst security failures in Pakistan," he said. "The Pakistan government guaranteed the Sri Lankan cricket team that they would provide them security."

None of the attackers was killed or apprehended at the scene. Grenades and rocket launchers were found there, police said, and a manhunt is under way.

Our correspondent says security forces will be investigating any connections to al-Qaeda and Taleban militants as well as Kashmiri jihadi groups.

A Pakistani air force helicopter has now airlifted uninjured members of the Sri Lankan team out of the Gaddafi Stadium.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse condemned the "cowardly terrorist attack" and ordered the players' evacuation back to Sri Lanka. A plane is being chartered for this purpose. Mr Rajapakse is cutting short a visit to Nepal.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also strongly condemned the attack, and ordered an immediate investigation "so that the perpetrators are identified and their motives exposed", said a statement from his office.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for India's foreign ministry offered sympathy and urged Pakistan to take "prompt, meaningful and decisive steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure once and for all".

But a Pakistani minister, Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol, reportedly told private Geo TV that evidence suggested the attackers came across the border from India.

He said the assault came in reaction to the Mumbai attacks, and was a "declaration of open war on Pakistan by India".


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2 Comments:

Blogger midnight rider said...

"But a Pakistani minister, Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol, reportedly told private Geo TV that evidence suggested the attackers came across the border from India.

He said the assault came in reaction to the Mumbai attacks, and was a "declaration of open war on Pakistan by India".

Pins and needles time again. Geez I wish these guys would just learn the lyrics to Kumbaya. . .

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 4:33:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the takeaway here is "don't be diverted by the RPGs, folks."

Ro

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 5:06:00 pm  

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