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SL players flown to Dubai after attack

Cricketnext.com
Mar 03, 2009 at 05:56pm IST

New Delhi: Sri Lankan cricketers were airlifted in a helicopter from the Gaddafi Stadium and flown to Dubai as their tour of Pakistan ended on a dastardly note, when about 12 unidentified gunmen opened fire on the team bus while they were on their way to resume the second Test.

At least six Sri Lankan cricketers were injured in the firing and five police personnel escorting the team were killed on the spot.

Two of the Lankan players were seriously injured. Thilan Samaraweera underwent a surgery to remove a bullet that was lodged in his foot. Tharanga Paranavitana was shot in the chest. However, both players have been declared to be out of danger.

The other players who were injured in the attack were skipper Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Chaminda Vaas and Thilan Thushara, PCB officials were quoted as saying by Dawn News channel.

All the players are now safe and the Lakans will leave for home today, Sri Lankan team manager Brendon Kuruppu told CNN-IBN.

That all the players were safe was also confirmed to CNN-IBN by Sanath Jayasuriya over phone.

This is the first attack since the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where sportspersons have been targetted.

The Lankan team were on their way to the stadium for the third day's play of the second Test match when the gunmen surrounded the bus near the busy Liberty Chowk and opened fire, according to officials. They also lobbed grenades and tried to use a rocket launcher, which luckily did not fire.

The security personnel fought the gunmen for almost 25 minutes, but all the attackers managed to escape. However, some policemen sustained injuries in the firing.

"There were 12 masked gunmen," Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman told reporters, adding that police battled against the assailants for about 25 minutes.

"They appeared to be well-trained terrorists. They came on rickshaws. They were armed with rockets, hand grenades, kalashnikovs," he said.

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Police cordoned off the area immediately after the attack and launched a search for the gunmen. The driver of the cricket team's bus drove away from the spot immediately after the firing started.

The liaison officer of the Pakistan team said players of the host nation have been sent back to the hotel.

Reports also claimed that the police had received a threat on Monday that the Sri Lankan team would be attacked so a different route was used to transport the team to the stadium.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer said the incident was similar to last year's Mumbai attacks.

Reports said the gunmen had tried to snatch a car in a nearby market as they fled from Liberty Chowk.

The bus with the Sri Lankan team immediately rushed to the high-security Gaddafi Stadium, where the injured players were treated by the team's doctor. Governor Taseer despatched a helicopter to fly the Sri Lankan team out of the stadium.

Security concerns in Pakistan have troubled tours in that country before as well. As many as three tours were cancelled in the last year alone.

Australia pulled out of their scheduled visit, while the International Cricket Council (ICC) postponed the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in September.

That postponement was followed by the cancellation of India's tour to Pakistan that was scheduled to be held this Januaray and February. The decision was taken after relations between the neighbours deteriorated further following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

The tour had always been under doubt due to the security situation in Pakistan and it was further put in jeopardy by the terrorist attack in Mumbai.

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