Home Muslim World News Six killed, six Sri Lanka cricketers injured in Lahore terror attack

Six killed, six Sri Lanka cricketers injured in Lahore terror attack


Lahore/Colombo : Six Pakistani policemen were killed and six Sri Lankan cricketers injured Tuesday when gunmen armed with automatic weapons attacked the visiting team’s convoy as it headed for Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium. A military helicopter later evacuated the cricketers as Sri Lanka cancelled its Pakistan tour.

Four suspects have been arrested from Lahore’s Model Town area for their suspected involvement in the attack, with Geo TV saying: “Arms have been recovered from two of them”.

Police said 12 terrorists were involved in the attack.

Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, said the assault in the heart of Lahore was the handiwork of the same terrorists who struck in Mumbai in November last year.

“It was a planned terrorist act on the pattern of the attack on Mumbai. I believe the same terrorists are involved in both the incidents,” Taseer told reporters.

The team bus, which came under attack at about 8.30 a.m. at the Liberty Market crossing close to the stadium where the squad was going for the third day’s play in the second Test from their hotel, was riddled with bullets.

Sri Lankan cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene said that the players dived to the floor of the bus to take cover when the bus suddenly came under heavy fire.

“The bus came under attack as we were driving to the stadium, the gunmen targeted the wheels of the bus first and then the bus,” Cricinfo quoted Jayawardene as saying.

“We all dived to the floor to take cover. About five players have been injured and also Paul Farbrace (a member of the support staff), but most of the injuries appear to be minor at this stage and caused by debris,” he added.

Pakistan Cricket Board sources said the van carrying the match umpires also came under attack, leaving the umpires’ liaison officer Abdul Sami injured. One of the umpires, Ahsan Raza, was reported to be critically injured.

Qasim, a resident of Lahore, told Dawn.com that he was in his office, located near the site of the attack, when he heard the first blast at 8:30 a.m.

A grenade had been thrown at the bus but it landed about 20 feet away. A second grenade was hurled under the bus but the driver managed to manoeuvre the vehicle to ensure the team wasn’t hurt, he added.

According to Qasim, three or four men started firing at the bus shortly after the grenade attack.

Qasim described the scene as witnessed from the roof of his office building from where he saw the gunmen running towards the main roundabout in the market.

“They were just firing everywhere,” he said.

People stopped their cars and started running around trying to find places to hide, Qasim stated.

Lahore police chief Habibur Rehman said 12 terrorists armed with rocket launchers and hand grenades carried out the attack and the exchange of fire with the cricket team’s bodyguards lasted for about 25 minutes.

“The attackers had come by rickshaws,” he told reporters, confirming that six security personnel – including two commandos – escorting the team had been killed.

All the attackers made good their escape, leaving behind a huge quantity of weapons and ammunition. A car suspected to have been used by the attackers was seized.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attack and asked the authorities concerned to immediately investigate the incident so that the perpetrators are identified and their “motives exposed”.

The terror attack sparked outrage in Sri Lanka, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa instructing that the players be brought home immediately.

Rajapaksa, who cut short his three-day visit to Nepal, “unequivocally condemned the cowardly terrorist attack”.

The Sri Lankan High Commission said in a statement: “Members of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team have received minor injuries including Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal and Thilina Thushara and Assistant Coach Paul Farbrace. Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana have been admitted to the Lahore Hospital.”

Later, Samaraweera and Paranavitana were brought back to the stadium and flown to the airport on a Pakistan Air Force helicopter for their return journey to Colombo.

Most of the other players had already been flown to Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore to be flown back home.

Pakistan Cricket Board’s Director Operation Zakir Khan and one of the doctors working with the board are accompanying the returning players.

Pakistan Television (PTV) televised live the departure of the Sri Lanka cricketers from the stadium. They were seen off by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt.

In Colombo, there was concern and worry.

Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary P. Kohona said he had spoken to the Pakistani authorities and had been assured of all help.

“It is appalling that anybody should have targeted a sporting team in such a brutal manner. The attitude of targeting sportsmen must change,” he said.

Father of the outgoing team skipper Mahela Jayawardene said his son had called his wife from Lahore to say that he too had suffered minor injuries in his leg during the attack that had shocked the nation.

The Sri Lankan team was in Pakistan to play in place of India that had pulled out of the series after the Nov 26-29 Mumbai carnage that was blamed on Pakistani terrorists.

Sri Lankan embassy’s Third Secretary Chamara Ranaweera expressed concern about the future of cricket in Pakistan after the attack.

He said it was courageous of Sri Lanka to agree to play in Pakistan in the present circumstances, but the incident carries serious implications for cricket in Pakistan.