Terror attack on Lankan cricket team in Lahore
Gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team in a gun and grenade assault Tuesday in the Pakistani city of Lahore that killed eight people and wounded seven members of the squad.
The attack sparked condemnation from around the world and threw a massive question mark over the future of the game in the troubled nation -- a co-host for the 2011 cricket World Cup.
"The plan was apparently to kill the Sri Lankan team but the police came in the way and forced the attackers to run away," Lahore's police chief Habib-ur Rehman said.
"They appeared to be well-trained terrorists," he told reporters.
Rehman said up to 12 gunmen ambushed the team's convoy close to the Gaddafi stadium with rockets, hand grenades and automatic weapons, unleashing a fierce gunbattle with security forces.
The gunmen fled after the ambush, triggering a giant manhunt.
It was the first deadly attack against a sports team in this nuclear-armed country, where more than 1,600 people have died in a wave of Islamist attacks in less than two years, and Al-Qaeda and Taliban shelter in its northwest.
Witnesses said the upmarket district, home to many designer boutiques, was transformed into a battle zone as gunmen hidden behind trees opened fire in a sophisticated, coordinated attack.
"The bus came under attack as we were driving to the stadium," Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene told Cricinfo.
"The gunmen targeted the wheels of the bus first, and then the bus. We all dived to the floor to take cover."
He said most of the injuries appeared to be minor and caused by debris.
It could have been worse -- Rehman said the attackers fired a rocket which missed the bus, then threw grenades underneath which failed to explode.
He said weapons recovered from the scene "suggest the terrorists were well prepared and organised."
A police official said two civilians and six policemen guarding the players were killed in the attack as the team was heading for the third day's play in the second Test against Pakistan.
Sri Lankan officials said seven team players and a coach were wounded.
Star batsman Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavithana were treated in hospital but out of danger, while Jayawardene, vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Thilina Thushara and Suranga Lokumal had minor injuries.
Assistant coach Paul Farbrace, a British national, was also hurt.
Samaraweera is one of Sri Lanka's leading players and earlier this week he became only the seventh batsmen in Test cricket to notch a double hundred in consecutive matches.
Sri Lanka said it was rushing its foreign minister to Pakistan in the wake of the assault, which Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse called a "cowardly terrorist attack."
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also strongly condemned the "terrorist" attack and ordered an inquiry.
Two air force helicopters evacuated the Sri Lankan team from the stadium to an air base, from where they were to be flown home immediately.
Experts defused two car bombs and recovered grenades, three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of explosives, a pistol and a detonating cable.
Blood stained the front seats of a vehicle used by Pakistan's elite force, the van raked with gunfire with its wheels shot up and radio system disabled.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility although fears of attack by Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda have caused many cricket teams to cancel tours to Pakistan in recent years.
Pakistani officials said the attack bore all the hallmarks of the November 2008 assault on the Indian city of Mumbai, which was blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.
India's immediate reaction was to say that Pakistan needed to dismantle its "infrastructure of terrorism" and that security for the Sri Lankan cricketers had been "hopelessly inadequate."
The attack also came as the Sri Lankan army pressed its final offensive against ethnic Tamil rebels in the north of the country in a civil war that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
David Morgan, president of the International Cricket Council, warned that Pakistan could not host international cricket unless it dramatically improves security.
"In the current situation, it clearly is a very dangerous place," he told BBC television, and questioned plans for the 2011 World Cup, due to co-hosted by Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
"Things will have to change dramatically in Pakistan, in my opinion, if any of the games are to be staged there."
Last month, Australia forced Pakistan to change the venue of their one-day series in April/May to Dubai and Abu Dhabi because of security fears.
India also refused to send its team across the border following the Mumbai attacks and a spate of bombings in Pakistan over the past year.
Last month, security concerns raised by other teams forced the ICC to move the 2009 Champions Trophy out of Pakistan.
DHAKA CONCERNED OVER LAHORE ATTACK
Dhaka expressed deep concern and condemnation at the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, Pakistan yesterday, reports out staff correspondent in Dhaka.
Eight people were killed and seven Lankan cricketers were injured when masked gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team's bus at the Liberty Market Square close to the Gaddafi Stadium where they were scheduled to feature in the third day's play of the second Test against hosts Pakistan.
"The sports personalities are goodwill ambassadors and attack on them is a cowardly act," said a spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka yesterday.
He wished early recovery of the wounded cricketers and expressed sympathies to the families of those killed in the attack. He also hoped that South Asian countries would work together to free the region from the menace of terrorism.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), the game's governing body in the country, also condemned the attack on the Sri Lankan players in the strongest possible term.
"The BCB is deeply concerned at this unprecedented attack on cricket which is a symbol of hope and aspiration for millions in the sub-continent and around the world", said a BCB media release.
The BCB, however, confirmed that until now Pakistan cricket team's tour to Bangladesh this month is on.
Pakistan are scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on March 7 to play two Twenty20 games and five one-day internationals in Dhaka and Chittagong.