English cricket hero saves umpire as gunmen kill six in attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan
Just in case you had any doubt on who is to blame for this attack, ask Irfan Yusuf:
Â Â Â Â Â Â The Tamil Tigers Did it!
Already Sri Lankan Tamils are getting nervous at the possibility of Tamil Tigers’ involvement in the Lahore attacks. Here is whatÂ Hamish McDonald, writing for theÂ Sydney Morning Herald, has picked up from discussions on Sri Lankan media websites:
Take this exchange on the popular website www.lankanewspapers.com within a few hours of the team being attacked in Lahore.
A posting by “Pacha” noted that Tamil star bowler Muttiah Muralitharan was not among the reported victims: “Murali not injured suld have known this attack before.” Â * Does that remind you of the ‘4000 Jooozz that didn’t come to work on 9/11?
Back to the story:
It happened on the way to the “Gaddafi Stadium” Â in Lahore…
The ground was originally named “Lahore Stadium”, but was renamed inÂ 1974Â in honour ofÂ Colonel GaddafiÂ ofÂ LibyaÂ after a rousing speech he gave at anÂ Organisation of the Islamic ConferenceÂ meeting in favour of Pakistan’s right to pursue nuclear weapons.
A former English cricket star desperately tried to shield another official from a hail of bullets today as they were attacked by -Islamic- terrorists in Pakistan.
Chris Broad, 51, was following the Sri Lankan team’s coach when it was ambushed by 12 masked gunmen wielding AK-47s, grenades and rocket launchers.
Broad, now a match referee and whose son Stuart plays for the national side, threw himself on top of a local umpire when their vehicle also came under fire.
Seven players and their British coach were injured and six policeman killed in the attack as the convoy neared the Gadaffi stadium in Lahore. A bus driver also died.
The assault was one of the worst terrorist attacks on a sports team since Palestinian militants killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Terror: A windscreen splattered with blood and bullet holes after masked gunman attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, Pakistan
Pakistani umpire Nadeem Ghouri, who was travelling with Broad, told how their driver was shot dead right in front of them.
‘It was horrifying. There were bullets flying around us and we didn’t know what was happening. When the firing started we all went down on the floor of the coach.
‘Our driver was killed instantly from a shot from the front,’ he said.
He revealed Broad had covered fellow official Ahsan Raza with his own body after he was shot to protect him from more bullets. ‘It was very brave’, Ghouri said.
The gunmen struck at around 8.40am local time as the Sri Lankan team was on its way to face Pakistan for the third day of the second Test in the country.
Their coach was just 300 metres from stadium when they were ambushed by the gunmen, who arrived in motorised rickshaws.
In a chilling reminder of the deadly strikes in the Indian city of Mumbai last November, they wore backbacks and were heavily armed.
Ambush: Two of the terrorists brandish their weapons during the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore this morning
Shot down: The dead bodies of police escorts lie on the ground
Players said they threw a grenade and tried to hit them with a rocket but missed before starting a hail of bullets, forcing them to throw themselves to the floor.
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene told how players dived down to take cover. ‘The gunmen targeted the wheels of the bus first and then the bus,’ he said.
A 15-minute gun battle ensued between the team’s police bodyguards and the gunmen before all the attackers fled, sparking a huge manhunt.
So far, none have been killed or captured. Authorities have refused to speculate about their identity, but Islamic militants immediately regarded as chief suspects.
Pakistan is battling a ferocious insurgency by terrorists linked to Al Qaeda who have staged high-profile attacks on civilian targets before.
Mr Raza was shot in the back and is in a critical condition in hospital. He and the other officials had leapt to the floor in a desperate bid to try and avoid the gunfire.
Ex-England batsmen Broad, the match referee, was seen moments later at the stadium with blood spattered across his shirt.
Hero: Chris Broad and wife Michelle. He shielded a colleague from the gunfire
His wife, Michelle, who spoke to him this morning, added: ‘He’s okay now. They are all very shocked.’
Stuart, who is currently on tour with England in the Caribbean, said his father had been very ‘shook up’ but was now safe and well and looking forward to going home.
Australian Steve Davis, who was umpiring the match, added: ‘It was terrible. The van driver died in front of us. I am lost for words.’
Injured: Sri Lanka’s assistant coach, the Briton Paul Farbrace, was wounded
It was the first Test series to have been played in Pakistan for 14 months due to security fears.
Thilan Samaraweera was shot in the leg and fellow batsmen Tharanga Paranthavina was hit in the chest by shrapnel. Both were treated in hospital but later released.
Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Suranka Lakmal and Chaminda Vaas and assistant coach Paul Farbrace were also wounded.
Mr Farbrace, a former Kent and Middlesex cricketer, was hit by some shrapnel in the arm and said he felt very lucky to be alive.
‘It was very frightening. That panic when you lie on the floor hearing gunfire and you can hear the bus being hit, you just pray one of them doesn’t hit you.’
He could hear the windows of the bus being smashed by the bullets and took cover on the floor. ‘It is then you realise you are a sitting duck’, he said.
‘There were a couple of players hit. One was hit in the back of the leg by a bullet and a couple of others like me were hit by bits of metal from the bus or things that exploded around us.
‘ When I got to the floor I realised that the blood that I could see was coming from me -Â luckily superficial wounds.’
He added: ‘I am just very grateful that I am still alive. I look back on the situation and feel desperately sad for the people who died trying to protect us.Â
‘That’s horrendous , I think that’s something that will stay with you forever. People talk about it being bad for cricket but I think cricket goes on the back burner. I think it is sad for people.’
Wounded: Cricketers Thilan Samaraweera, left, and Tharanga Paranavitana were the most seriously injured and needed hospital treatmentÂ
Former England cricketer Dominic Cork, who was in the country as a commentator for Pakistan television, was also following the squad’s bus in a car.
He heard the explosions and shots ring out as they travelled in the convoy but only realised the extent of the attack when they arrived at the stadium.
Players told him: ‘All of a sudden six gunmen came out and started shooting at their bus. They tried to take out the driver.
‘He dodged the bullets and was able to keep driving but the bullets went through the windows and sides of the coaches. They hit the ground and this is where some of the players have been injured.’
He added: ‘It’s just been one of the most frightening experiences you could ever witness. I won’t be coming back here while I’m still living, there is no chance. I don’t think international cricket should return to this country.’
Pakistan’s own team only avoided being caught up in the shootings as well thanks to a last minute change of plan not to leave at the same time as the Sri Lankans.
The terrorists melted away into the city after the attack and the bus proceeded to the stadium, where the players took refuge in their dressing room.
Victims: The bodies of two Pakistani police officers in the back of an ambulance after the shooting in Lahore. Six died in total
Narrow escape: A Pakistani bomb squad official defuses a device found at the scene of the shooting after the attackers fled
The team’s entire tour in the country was immediately cancelled and they were evacuated by helicopter.
Mendis said: ‘All we want to do is go back home to our families and be safe’.
However, he added: ‘I don’t regret coming to play cricket. That’s what we’ve done all our lives, that is our profession.’
Player Kumar Sangakkara later told a local radio station: ‘All the players are completely out of danger. Luckily there’s nothing serious and everyone is fine.’
India immediately claimed the attackers were part of the same group blamed for the Mumbai strikes three months ago, in which almost 200 people died.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has been targeted by Pakistani authorities since then and its stronghold is in eastern Pakistan.
The fact today’s attack was highly sophisticated, using multiple gunmen armed with explosives, is also reminiscent of the Indian massacre.
Punjab governor Salman Tahseer said: ‘These are the same terrorists that attacked Mumbai. They were trained militants. The terrorists came in rickshaws and the driver of the rickshaw has been arrested by police.
‘They fired on the team bus with automatic guns and were holding rocket launchers. They threw a grenade at the bus but fortunately it didn’t explode.’
Rescue: The Sri Lankan team board a military helicopter at the Gaddafi stadium as they are evacuated to safety
The fallen: Bodies of the dead policemen on the floor of a nearby hospital
Authorities will also investigate links to the Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been waging a bloody civil war in Sri Lanka although officials there have said they were not involved.
The International Cricket Board condemned the attack ‘without reservation’ and immediately started reviewing plans for the 2011 World Cup.
President David Morgan said it was an ‘extremely sad’ day for cricket.
‘On many occasions we have been told that cricketers would not be targeted in Pakistan. This morning’s events have proved that to be incorrect but cricket must go on, it will go on. It’s a great game,’ he told a press conference at Lords.
Pakistan had been due to stage 14 games as co-hosts with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. One of the semi-finals had been slated to be held at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also condemned the attack, describing it as cowardly.
His Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona refused to blame Pakistan security, saying: ‘We know from experience there is never enough security to counter a well organized and determined terrorist group.
Explosives: Pakistani security officials carry a rocket launcher left at the scene
Seized: A grenade, left, and sub-machine gun used by the terrorists
The violence comes at a time of unrest in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, both of which are trying to defeat insurgencies.
Most of the problems in Pakistan are in its northwest regions bordering Afghanistan, where Taliban and Al Qaeda militants have established strongholds but Lahore has not been immune from militant violence.
A deadly suicide car bombing in the southern city of Karachi in 2002 damaged the Sheraton Hotel, where members of the New Zealand cricket team were staying.
The players were unharmed but cancelled their test match and left Pakistan within hours.
In Sri Lanka, the authorities appear to be on the brink of crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels after more than a quarter century of civil war.
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 in recent months 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.
They 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.
Regardless of its perpetrators, today’s attack will be a huge blow to the future of Pakistani cricket, which has been blighted for years by fears over security.
The Sri Lankan tour, which has now been cancelled with immediate effect, was only on because India withdrew after the Mumbai killings.
Last year, the ICC called off the Champions Trophy after three teams, including England pulled out, because they felt touring the country was too great a risk.
Australia also refused to tour Pakistan last year due to the unrest after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Today, John Stern who edits cricket magazine Wisden, said it was impossible to imagine international matches happening there in the near future and described the outlook for the sport in Pakistan as ‘desperate’.
One possibility was for the national team to play its matches in the UK, which has a large Pakistani community, he said.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘The attack on the Sri Lankan team is shocking and senseless. Today is a grim day for sport.
‘The game of cricket brings players, spectators and nations together in a common, peaceful purpose. This appalling attack is a grotesque violation of that.’
Update from Tim Blair:
Tim BlairÂ â€“ Wednesday, March 04, 09 (04:59 am)
“These areÂ not the normal terroristsÂ who in desperation and anger are reacting against Pakistan forces [in the tribal areas].
“This wasÂ not a normal terrorist attack. This was to destablise the Pakistan economy and the country.”Â
As opposed toÂ normalÂ terrorist attacks, which only unleash clouds of cinnamon-scented butterflies aiming to improve childhood literacy rates. Latest reports and videoÂ here.Â