Gunmen Open Fire on Sri Lanka Cricket Team

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

A dozen masked gunmen armed with rifles and rocket launchers attacked vehicles carrying members of Sri Lanka's national cricket
team in east Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding at least two players and killing five police officers, officials said.

The attack in Lahore came at a time of unrest in both Pakistan
and Sri Lanka, both of which are trying to defeat insurgencies. It
was unclear who was behind the assault, but it appeared to have
been carefully coordinated.

City police chief Haji Habibur Rehman said five policemen died
in the shooting and that two players were wounded. A Pakistan
Cricket Board security official had earlier said eight players were
wounded.

"It was a terrorist attack and the terrorists used rocket
launchers, hand grenades and other weapons," Rehman said, adding
the police were hunting down the attackers who managed to flee.
"Our police sacrificed their lives to protect the Sri Lankan
team."

He said one wounded player was hit in the leg while the other
received a bullet in the chest but that the injuries did not appear
life threatening.

A Sri Lankan foreign ministry official confirmed that two
players - Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana - were
hospitalized. He said three more players were slightly injured and
that the head coach, Australian Trevor Bayliss, also sustained
minor injuries. The official spoke on condition of anonymity
because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Rehman said 12 masked gunmen participated in the attack near
Gaddafi Stadium where the Sri Lankan team was heading to play
Pakistan in a test match.

Footage from the scene Tuesday showed the team's white van with
its front window shattered as security officials tried to gain
control of the scene in an intersection.

Security concerns have plagued Pakistan for years and some
foreign sports teams have refused to play here.

Most of the violence in Pakistan occurs in its northwest regions
bordering Afghanistan, where Taliban and al-Qaida militants have
established strongholds. Lahore has not been immune from militant
violence, however, and several of its cultural arenas have been the
focus of small explosions. At least one attack in recent months in
the northwest has occurred next to a sports stadium.

Sri Lanka appeared on the brink of crushing the Tamil Tiger
rebels after more than a quarter century of civil war.

In recent months, government forces have pushed the guerrillas
out of much of the de facto state they controlled in the north of
the Indian Ocean island nation and trapped them in a small patch of
land along the coast.

The rebels, who are fighting for an independent state for Sri
Lanka's Tamil minority, are listed as a terror group by the U.S.
and E.U. and are routinely blamed for suicide bombings and other
attacks targeting civilians.

The rebels rarely launch attacks outside Sri Lanka, though their
most prominent attack - the assassination of former Indian Prime
Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a female suicide bomber - took place at an
election rally in India in 1991.

A driver of one of the vehicles taking the Sri Lankan players to
the stadium told Pakistan's private Express news channel that he
saw a man firing a rocket toward their van and then some one hurled
a grenade, but the weapons missed their vehicle.

The driver said later he heard gunshots and bullet started
hitting their van. He said he managed to take the van to the
stadium and saw two of the Sri Lankan players were bleeding.


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