Wed, March 04, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Gunmen attack Sri Lanka cricketers

Terrorists attack Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore

2009-03-04 02:01:56 GMT2009-03-04 10:01:56 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Pakistani policemen survey the area next to the wreckage of a police van after masked gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. [China Daily]

The bodies of Pakistani policeman who were killed in a shooting incident lie at a hospital in Lahore March 3, 2009. [Agencies]

A bullet hole is seen on a window of a bus, which was carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team, parked outside the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore March 3, 2009. [Agencies]

Hospital staff carry Sri Lankan cricket player Tharanga Paranavitana at a local hospital in Lahore March 3, 2009 after a shooting incident. Six Sri Lankan cricketers and their British assistant coach were wounded when gunmen attacked their bus as it drove under police escort on Tuesday to a stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore, officials said. [Agencies]

Pakistan policemen stand guard outside Gaddafi stadium after a shooting in Lahore March 3, 2009. Six Sri Lankan cricketers and their British assistant coach were wounded when gunmen attacked their bus as it drove under police escort on Tuesday to a stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore, officials said. [Agencies]

LAHORE, Pakistan -- At least a dozen men attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team with rifles, grenades and rocket launchers yesterday ahead of a match in Pakistan, wounding seven players, an umpire and an assistant coach from Britain in a brazen assault on South Asia's most beloved sport.

Six policemen and a driver were killed.

The players' and the coach's injuries were not life-threatening, officials said. The umpire was in critical condition.

In a coordinated attack, the assailants ambushed the convoy carrying the squad and match officials at a traffic circle near the main sports stadium in the eastern city of Lahore, triggering a 15-minute gunbattle with police guarding the vehicles.

None of the attackers was killed or captured at the scene, city police chief Haji Habibur Rehman said. Authorities did not speculate on the identities of the attackers or their motives.

Yesterday's attack came three months after the Mumbai terror strikes that killed 164 people. Both were coordinated attacks, used multiple gunmen, apparently in teams of two, who were armed with explosives and assault rifles, carried backpacks and apparently had little fear of death or capture.

Pakistan is battling a ferocious insurgency by Islamist militants with links to Al-Qaida who have staged high-profile attacks on civilian targets before.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa condemned the attack and ordered his foreign minister to immediately travel to Pakistan to help assist in the team's evacuation and ensure they are safe.

Witness and officials said the attackers opened fire and hit the team bus with automatic weapons from several locations as it traveled to the stadium, but did not manage to stop the vehicle - something that likely saved the squad from a worse fate.

TV footage of the attack showed at least one pair of gunmen with backpacks firing from a stretch of grass and taking cover behind a small monument before moving on. It was taken from a building overlooking the site of the ambush.

"These people were highly trained and highly armed. The way they were holding their guns, the way they were taking aim and shooting at the police, it shows they were not ordinary people," said Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province. "This is the same style as the terrorists who attacked Mumbai."

Other video showed damaged vehicles and unexploded grenades lying on the ground along with three bodies. An Associated Press reporter saw police handling what looked like two suicide jackets. Officers also recovered two backpacks apparently used by the attackers before fleeing, as well as walkie-talkies.

Lahore police chief Rehman said "between 12 and 14 men" took part in the assault. He said officers were hunting them down.

(Agencies)

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