Lahore (AsiaNews) – The death toll from an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus is eight dead. Six security officers who were escorting the bus are among those killed and two passers-by; all six of the wounded belong to the Sinhalese national team, that main target of the attack.
Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman said 12 gunmen attacked the convoy near Lahore's Gaddafi stadium with rockets, hand grenades and automatic weapons and were involved in a 25-minute shoot-out with the security forces; police also recovered two car bombs and a stash of arms, used by the terrorist command in preparation for the attack. “They appeared to be well-trained terrorists. They came on rickshaws” commented Habib-ur-Rehman, “the police are hunting the command down”.
The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse condemned the "cowardly terrorist attack", and ordered the players to be evacuated home immediately. Salman Taseer, governor of central Punjab province, claimed that it was the same pattern of killing as seen in Mumbai the “same kind of arms” and the “same terrorists”. “They are trained criminals – affirmed the governor - They were not common people. The kind of weaponry they had, the kind of arms they had, the way they attacked ... they were not common citizens, and they were obviously trained”.
Strong condemnation also from Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the national council for justice and peace, who describes the attack as “enormously damaging” to the country’s image on an international level. “There is problem of terrorism in the country but our political leaders have to speak and act wisely”, the Christian activist warns, “And every one has to take these problems seriously and responsibly”.
Many sporting fixtures due to take place in Pakistan have been postponed or cancelled in recent times due to the threat of attacks by al Qaeda militants. Islamic fundamentalists have declared holy war on the practise of sport. The Sri Lankan team had been invited to many competitions in Pakistan when India cancelled its tournament in the wake of the Mumbai bombs, which New Delhi blamed from the outset on Islamabad. Involvement of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been waging a war against the Sri Lankan government, has been excluded.