4 Mar 2009

Pakistan police hunt for cricket squad's attackers

10:04 pm on 4 March 2009

Pakistani police are hunting gunmen who attacked a convoy carrying Sri Lanka's cricket squad in the city of Lahore.

The masked men opened fire, killing five policemen escorting the Sri Lankans and a driver. A number of players and their assistant coach were wounded in the attack on Tuesday.

Officials say they have picked up a number of people for questioning on Wednesday, but none of the gunmen have been found. Their motives for the attack are not known.

However, officials said the incident bore similarities to deadly attacks in Mumbai in India last November. The Mumbai bombings were blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.

Police showed journalists a large cache of arms recovered from several locations near the site of the attack. Backpacks found stuffed with water and high energy food suggest the gunmen may have been preparing for a long siege, as was the case in Mumbai.

Rehman Malik, the prime minister's interior adviser, says the incident has plunged Pakistan into a state of war and they will flush all the terrorists out of the country.

Officials said about 12 gunmen were involved in the attack on the Liberty Square roundabout in the heart of Lahore.

The ambush took place as the Sri Lankans were on their way to play a Test match against their Pakistani hosts at the Gaddafi Stadium.

The driver of a bus following behind, carrying the Australian umpires, was killed.

The BBC reports those injured in the squad were: Thilan Samaraweera, Tharanga Paranavitana, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Chaminda Vaas and assistant coach Paul Farbrace.

Team members were reunited with their families after returning to Sri Lanka on Wednesday. Several of the squad have been taken to hospital for further assessment of their injuries.

Pakistan has reeled under a wave of bomb and gun attacks in recent years, mostly carried out by Islamist militants linked to the Taliban or al Qaeda.

In November, about 170 people were killed in attacks in Mumbai, which led to the Indian cricket team cancelling its planned tour of Pakistan, and the Sri Lankan team taking its place.

NZ tour to Pakistan 'in doubt'

New Zealand Cricket on Wednesday said its tour of Pakistan later this year is in doubt, but matches could be played at a neutral venue.

Chief executive Justin Vaughan said officials needed to consult with the Pakistan Cricket Board and international cricket officials before making a final decision.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Cricket says it has increased security for the Indian team for the remainder of its current tour of New Zealand.

The International Cricket Council cast doubt on Pakistan's ability to host high-level games.

"It's difficult to see international cricket being played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in London.

ICC President David Morgan said the attack had changed the whole landscape for international cricket.

In February, the ICC decided not to hold the 2009 Champions Trophy there due to safety worries.

It is now considering whether Pakistan can co-host the cricket World Cup, due to be held across four South Asian countries in 2011.