Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 10:34 UK

Sri Lanka honours cricket driver

Meher Mohammad Khalil in Colombo, 06 April
Mr Khalil said he did not think about jumping out of the bus

The Pakistani coach driver praised for his actions in last month's attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore has been honoured at a ceremony in Colombo.

Meher Mohammad Khalil sped away from the attack as bullets rained down and reached the safety of the stadium.

New Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara said: "We will always have a special place for you in our hearts."

Six policemen and a driver died in the attack and seven Sri Lankan players and a British assistant coach were hurt.

Mr Khalil and his family have been given a sponsored holiday and a $21,800 reward was handed to him at the ceremony in Sri Lanka's capital on Monday.

'Not scared'

Kumar Sangakkara, who was injured in the attack on 3 March, said: "We are here to thank one unarmed man for his courage, selflessness and quick thinking that enabled many of us to see another day."

Mahela Jayawardene, the captain during the Pakistan tour, said: "Khalil, you are our hero. We will always remember you with gratitude."

Mr Khalil with ex-captain Mahela Jayawardene
Mr Khalil with ex-captain Mahela Jayawardene at the ceremony

Mr Khalil said at the ceremony at the Sri Lanka cricket headquarters: "I did it for Pakistan. I did it for Sri Lanka, who were our guests.

"By God's help I did not feel scared at all and never thought of jumping out of the bus to save myself."

Mr Khalil also thanked Sri Lanka for having toured Pakistan - the team agreed to go after India pulled out in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last November.

All of the Sri Lankan cricketers are now back playing bar batsman Thilan Samaraweera. He had a bullet lodged in his left leg and remained in hospital for two weeks after the attack.

The attack began as the Sri Lankan team bus reached an intersection on its way to Lahore's Gaddafi stadium for a Test match on 3 March.

Bullets hit the windscreen and sides of the bus but Mr Khalil accelerated hard to take it away from the intersection.

About 12 gunmen were involved and escaped after the assault.

Shortly after the attack, Kumar Sangakkara said:"We had an amazing driver who just kept driving the bus straight through all of that to the ground and that's probably what saved us."

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