Seven Killed in Gun Attack on Sri Lankan Cricket Team

March 3rd, 2009

Five policemen and two bystanders were killed and seven members of the Sri Lankan cricket team have been injured in a coordinated gun and rocket attack by 12 to 14 gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan at about 8.00 a.m local time.

The Sri Lankan players were ambushed en route to the Gaddafi stadium to play the third day of the second test, near the liberty roundabout. According to eye witnesses the team convoy was stopped by two vehicles blocking their path.

Security for the tourists included varying the route to the stadium; however, the attack occurred just outside the stadium, with the gunmen surrounding the team convoy on four sides. Wearing ballistic vests and armed with AK 47s, grenades and rockets, the gunmen first targeted the police escort, who bore the brunt of the attack, before turning their sights on the cricketers.

The masked gunmen used rockets to disable the lead vehicle. The driver of the team bus was able to avoid injury and was able to drive out of the area within a minute of the ambush, however injuries were sustained by the team as they were hit by both small arms fire and the resulting spall. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack and no suspects have been arrested.

The team escaped to the safety of the stadium and received first aid in the dressing rooms. The gunmen and police continued to exchange fire for half an hour before the gunmen escaped.

Bloodied and in shock, the team were evacuated from the stadium by air force helicopters landing on the wicket, with Tharanga Paranavithana and Thilan Samaraweera requiring hospital treatment for shrapnel wounds to the chest and leg respectively.

After the attack the tour was immediately cancelled. The team has been recalled and will leave Pakistan as soon as possible. The Sri Lankans were not even meant to be in Pakistan, being there only because the Indian team had withdrawn from a tour in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

In view of the attack the ICC, issued a statement noting their “dismay and regret” and has called into question the future of international cricket in Pakistan, including Pakistani involvement as co-hosts of the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

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