New Delhi: In a daring raid reminiscent of the Mumbai attack, terrorists in Lahore targeted the Sri Lankan cricket team that is currently touring Pakistan on Tuesday morning.
Unidentified gunmen, believed to be 12 in number and armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket launchers, opened fire on the bus carrying the cricketers to Gaddafi stadium in the city, Dawn news channel reported.
Initial reports said the attackers came in a white car and reportedly surrounded the bus at Liberty Chowk in the heart of the city and first fired rockets at the bus. They then resorted to indiscriminate firing with automatic firearms.
The attackers then started firing at a police van which was providing security to the Lankan team.
City police chief Haji Habibur Rehman said five policemen died in the attack.
A Pakistani Cricket Board official said six players were injured and admitted to a hospital.
The players reported injured are Thilan Samaraweera, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Mahela Jayawardene, Tharanga Paranavithana and Chaminda Vaas. Vaas was reportedly carried off on a stretcher while Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavithana were reportedly shot at.
A Lanka team spokesperson has now said that both Tharanga and Samaraweera are out of danger.
Six policemen are reported dead. The van carrying the umpires was also attacked. Assistant coach Paul Farbrace has also been reportedly injured.
The Sri Lankan tour has been officially called off.
"I had a shrapnel inside my shoulder, Ajantha had a few in his scalp and he also had a thigh injury. We are fine now. I don't regret coming to pak to play cricket because that is our profession. We are all out of danger now. I am very happy that I am safe"
The audacious attack in the heart of the city is reminiscent of the attack on Mumbai hotels. It is a clear pointer to what the perpetrators had on their mind — a Mumbai-like reaction and outrage from international community.
The impunity with which the attack was carried out, especially when cricketing events in the country sees unprecedented security measure, is sure to rattle the international community about security measures in Pakistan.
Speaking to the media after the attack, Punjab Governor Salmaan Tahseer said: "They are the same people who attacked Mumbai. It's a Mumbai-like operation. These were trained killers and are not ordinary criminals."
After initial postponement, India had officially called off its cricket tour to Pakistan on December 18 after the government refused permission to the team in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
That cancellation followed after relations between the neighbours deteriorated further following the 26/11 attacks.
Indian cricket team was scheduled to play three Tests, five One-Dayers and a Twenty20 match from January 4 to February 28 in Pakistan.
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.