Page last updated at 08:13 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Sri Lanka cricketers arrive home


Sri Lankan cricketers return home

The Sri Lanka cricket team has arrived home from Pakistan after masked gunmen opened fire on its bus in Lahore.

Six policemen and a driver were killed in the ambush and eight members of the cricket touring party were injured.

The team's return to Colombo saw emotional reunions with anxious family members at the international airport.

Pakistani police have also shown journalists a large cache of arms they say they recovered from several locations near the site of the attack.

Among the weapons were backpacks stuffed with food and water, suggesting that the gunmen may have been prepared for a long siege, as was the case in last year's attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, says the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad.

Weapons seized by police following an ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team, in Lahore, Pakistan
There were just these images of life flashing through my mind
Muttiah Muralitharan

Up to 14 gunmen were involved in the attack on the Liberty Square roundabout in the heart of Lahore. All escaped.

The police hunt continues in Pakistan as officials try to establish who is responsible for the attacks. Several people are being questioned.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Ministry adviser, said the country was in a "state of war".

He called for patience but vowed to "flush all these terrorists out of the country".

The masked men opened fire as the Sri Lanka team coach approached the cricket stadium for its latest Test match against Pakistan.

None of the injured Sri Lanka team members was so seriously hurt that they could not fly back to Colombo but once they arrived, five players and assistant coach Paul Farbrace, who is British, went to a local medical centre for further checks.


"There were just these images of life flashing through my mind; all the while bullets were being sprayed at our bus, people around me were shouting," spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan told the AFP news agency.

Thilan Samaraweera
Tharanga Paranavitana
Mahela Jayawardene
Kumar Sangakkara
Ajantha Mendis
Suranga Lakmal
Chaminda Vaas
Assistant coach Paul Farbrace

Captain Mahela Jayawardene told reporters at the airport that he was relieved to be home but admitted that it will take time to get over their experience. Meanwhile, funerals for the dead Pakistani policemen took place in Lahore on Tuesday night.

Officials said Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona had travelled to Pakistan to be updated on the investigation. Earlier, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse condemned the "cowardly terrorist attack".

Grenades, rocket launchers and backpacks belonging to the attackers were found at the scene, police said.

Officials in Pakistan said the incident bore similarities to the deadly attacks in Mumbai in India last November.

The Mumbai bombings were blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants and the security forces are expected to investigate any connections to al-Qaeda and Taleban militants as well as Kashmiri jihadi groups.

'Security failures'

Pakistan is engaged in a bloody struggle against Islamist insurgents who have staged high-profile attacks on civilian targets before.

Sept 08: 54 die in an attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad
June 08: Six killed in car bomb attack near Danish embassy in Islamabad
Dec 07: Former PM Benazir Bhutto assassinated along with 20 others at a Rawalpindi rally
March 06: Suicide car bombing kills US diplomat in Karachi
June 02: 12 killed in car bomb attack outside US consulate in Karachi
May 02: 11 French engineers and three Pakistanis killed in an attack on Karachi Sheraton hotel

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan authorities are waging their own domestic military campaign against Tamil Tiger separatist rebels.

The Pakistani politician Imran Khan, a former captain of the country's cricket team, criticised the security arrangements for the Sri Lanka team.

"This was one of the worst security failures in Pakistan," he said.

Pakistani cricket was already suffering from serious security concerns.

Last month, the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council, decided not to hold the 2009 Champions Trophy there due to safety worries.

New Zealand cricket authorities have told the BBC that a proposed tour to Pakistan now seems unlikely.

The ICC is now considering whether Pakistan can co-host the cricket World Cup, due to be held across four South Asian countries in 2011.

Pakistan invited Sri Lanka to tour only after India's cricket team pulled out of a scheduled tour following the Mumbai attacks.

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