Attack on Sri Lankan Cricket Team

Muttiah Muralitharan with wife
Muttiah Muralitharan with wife

Six Sri Lankan players and a coach were injured and eight persons, most of them policemen, were killed when a dozen heavily armed 14 terrorists attacked the team’s bus near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday.

Bullet ridden bus, which was carrying Sri Lankan cricket team
Bullet ridden bus, which was carrying Sri Lankan cricket team

Media reported that the Sri Lankan team was not provided adequate security.

bullet ridden bus
bullet ridden bus

The attack had many similarities to the three-day hostage siege in Mumbai. None of the gunmen were killed, and all fled the scene after a 15-minute shootout with the security officials guarding the cricket convoy. Working in pairs, the attackers in Lahore carried walkie-talkies and backpacks stuffed with water, dried fruits and other high-energy food — a sign they anticipated a protracted siege and may have been planning to take the players hostage.

arms and ammunitions on display
arms and ammunitions on display

Even guests and visitors are not safe in Pakistan. Assured of security reserved for VVIPs, Sri Lanka chose to play in Pakistan when the cricketing world at large saw Pakistan as a pariah state. They chose to play in a country whose very mention invokes images of the most gruesome violence in the minds of everyone outside Pakistan. Incidentally, Sri Lankans paid for their bravado for volunteering to visit Pakistan when India withdrew.

Bullet holes on a window of the bus
Bullet holes on a window of the bus

Five cricketers, including Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, and Kumar Sangakkara, his deputy, received minor injuries.

Mahela Jayawardene with wife Christina Sirisena
Mahela Jayawardene with wife Christina Sirisena
Kumar Sangakkara with wife Yehali and Thillakeratne Dilshan with his baby at Colombo
Kumar Sangakkara with wife Yehali and Thillakeratne Dilshan with his baby at Colombo
Tharanga Paranavitana (L) and Chamara Kapugedera
Tharanga Paranavitana (L) and Chamara Kapugedera
Thilina Thushara Mirando with son
Thilina Thushara Mirando with son

Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paravitarana were also injured in the attack which killed six security men and two civilians.

Ajantha Mendis
Ajantha Mendis

The squad, including Samaraweera and Paranavitana, whose injuries were more serious, flew out in a chartered plane.  The reserve umpire Ahsan Raza was also injured in the attack. Thilan Samaraweera had a shrapnel wound in his leg.

Thilan Samaraweera
Thilan Samaraweera

Tharanga Paranavitana had a shrapnel in his chest, just on the surface. Kumar Sangakkara had shrapnel injuries in his shoulder.

Sri Lankan cricket team assistant coach Paul Farbrace
Sri Lankan cricket team assistant coach Paul Farbrace
Sri Lankan cricket team coach Trevor Bayliss
Sri Lankan cricket team coach Trevor Bayliss

Ajantha Mendis had shrapnel in his neck and scalp.

Dilhara Fernando with daughter
Dilhara Fernando with daughter

A special flight carried the Sri Lankan players, including Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana, who were treated in a hospital for bullet wounds, to Colombo.

Sri Lankan players board a helicopter at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore after the attack
Sri Lankan players board a helicopter at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore after the attack

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said living and working in a country troubled by civil war helped save his. Sri Lankans are born and brought up in a background of terrorist activities, thanks to the LTTE. They are used to hearing firings and bombings. The moment they heard the firing sound, they naturally ducked under seats, it was like a natural instinct for them.

According to reports, an unknown caller asked police escorting the Sri Lankan team to use the Gulberg route leading to the Gaddafi Stadium instead of Ferozpur Road as had been decided earlier. Police followed the caller’s instructions without ascertaining his identity and fell into the trap.

Pakistan has been helping Sri Lankan government to fight the LTTE. By this attack, is Taliban warning the government of Sri Lanka to stop attacking the LTTE?

The men who attacked the Sri Lankan team bus with hand grenades were no ordinary terrorists. The footage showed it clearly that this was an attack carried out by individuals who have received highly sophisticated combat training. Their approach was quite similar to the Mumbai attacks. The attack shows that Pakistan has many well trained Jihadis like Kasab on its soil who can strike at ease and anywhere.

There have been terror strikes on the sidelines of cricket, but this is the first time players have been directly targeted. The attack is the first major strike against an international sporting team since Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Pakistan is not the only unsafe place in world. In 2005, England was playing with Australia at Headingley in a one-day international while the London bombings were happening. Some Australian cricketers wanted to go home but were persuaded by their management to stay.

And this is not the first time security concerns in Pakistan have come to the forefront. In 2001, New Zealand decided not to tour Pakistan following the September 11 attacks. In 2002, New Zealand team cancelled the Pakistan tour after a bomb blast outside Karachi’s Sheraton Hotel where it was staying. In 2008, Australia postponed its tour of Pakistan in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assasination in December 2007. Five of eight member countries of the ICC chose not to send their teams to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy in 2008.

In December 2008, the BCCI called off India’s scheduled tour of Pakistan in 2009, following a directive from the government. Five countries, including England, had refused to take part in the Champions Trophy in Pakistan last autumn, forcing the ICC to postpone the event and relocate to Sri Lanka this year. India then pulled out of its Pakistan tour in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, Sri Lanka taking India’s place.

Pakistan’s image has been hit and only time can tell how much damage has been done to Pakistan cricket. The prospects of Pakistan staging part of the 2011 World Cup will be remote. Australia might not change its stance on a country it has been refusing to visit since 1998.

The attack shows that the assurance of the Pakistan government that it provides VVIP security to teams cannot be relied upon. It proves that Pakistan is the world’s most dangerous country. Pakistan has been sheltering the most dreaded terrorists who are let loose at regular intervals to attack India.

The terrorists by attacking the Sri Lankan players in Lahore have not only brought ill-repute to Pakistan but have killed cricket in Pakistan.

Not only cricketres, but the whole world will abhor and fear going to Pakistan. Tourism will become a thing of the past. Pakistan should wake up and realise that it is the most dangerous place in the world.

It is time to take steps to exterminate jihadis. Blaming terrorist organisaions or any other country does not eradicate militancy and terrorism in Pakistan. It should wake up and root out the real enemy from its soil not only in its own interest, but also in the interest of the world.

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