Page last updated at 17:10 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Fatal cricket attack 'senseless'

Gun attack on Sri Lankan cricketers
Sri Lankan officials and players board a helicopter at Gaddafi stadium

The UK has condemned the "shocking and senseless" gun attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team as a "grim day for sport".

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham, said the shooting was a "grotesque violation".

Six policemen escorting the team bus plus a driver were killed. Seven cricketers and a coach were injured.

Former Kent batsman Paul Farbrace, who works as Sri Lanka's assistant coach, has described the moment he was wounded in the ambush in Lahore, Pakistan.

'Sitting duck'

"I remember one minute looking out the window and the next minute hearing a window breaking around me and people shouting 'get to the floor'," he told the BBC.

"There was lots of shouting and people hitting the floor and I think at that point I realised the blood I could see was coming from me, but luckily superficial wounds.

Dominic Cork
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
Dominic Cork

"We were very, very lucky to get off that bus... It was just that panic when you're laying on the floor and hearing gun fire and can hear the windows around you cracking... that you're praying one of them doesn't hit you."

Mr Farbrace, who suffered a shrapnel wound to his arm, said when his bus stopped people shouted to the driver to get moving.

"I think that was the point when you suddenly realise you're a sitting duck and anything can happen around you," he said.

He said the bus was well protected by armed guards and took the same route as normal before it was attacked on a roundabout.

"As we came... round the roundabout that was when gunfire opened so I guess that was the slow point in the journey... and an ideal time to attack," he said.

Former England test cricketer and current test official, Chris Broad, was following the Sri Lankan team's coach when it was ambushed. He reportedly threw himself on top of a local umpire when they too came under fire.

After Pakistani umpire Ahsan Raza was shot, Mr Broad reportedly covered him with his own body to protect him from more bullets.

Mr Broad's son Stuart said: "My dad saw things that he never expected to see and he never wants to see again.

"It was dreadful. I spoke to him in the early hours of this morning and he was obviously very shook up by it all. It has obviously been really heart-breaking for him."

Mr Burnham said: "The attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team is shocking and senseless, and today is a grim day for sport.

"The game of cricket brings players, spectators and nations together in a common, peaceful, purpose, and this appalling attack is a grotesque violation of that.

"Our thoughts are with the Sri Lankan cricketers and with the families of the Pakistani police officers who died protecting them."

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: "We are shocked by the brutal attack".

He added: "This is a cowardly attack designed to create fear and isolate and destabilise Pakistan. The Pakistani government must continue to intensify its efforts to tackle extremism and terrorism on its soil, and it will need the full support of the international community to do this."

Pakistani cricket was already suffering from serious security concerns.

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

International Cricket Council president David Morgan told the BBC it would be "very difficult for international cricket to be hosted in Pakistan for quite some time to come".

The former England cricketer Dominic Cork has vowed never to return to Pakistan after he was caught up in the attack but escaped injury.

Mr Cork, who was working as a commentator for Pakistan TV, made it to the stadium after the attack and spoke to some of the wounded Sri Lankan players and officials.

Paul Farbrace
Paul Farbrace joined the Sri Lankan team as assistant coach in 2007

He said: "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."

Cork, who played 37 tests for England, said the driver of Chris Broad's vehicle was hit by gunfire and Mr Broad was driven to the stadium with other officials by a policeman.

'Global jihadi agenda'

The Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, who was in the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai when gunmen attacked last year, said he was amazed the gunmen in Lahore were able to carry out such an attack.

Mr Karim, who is chairman of the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan Group, said: "Coming very, er, closely after what happened in Mumbai ... how on earth did this attack not crop up on the radar of the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] in Pakistan?"

He said there were "real similarities" with the attack in Mumbai, which left more than 170 people dead.

Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent, said although it was too early to say with any certainty, the attacks appeared to have been by militants with a "global jihadi agenda".

He said it appeared their intention was not just to attack Sri Lanka's cricket team but to embarrass the Pakistan government as well.

None of the gunmen involved has yet been captured.

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