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Police search for gunmen who attacked cricketers

Video by Pauline GODART

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-03-03

Six police and two security personnel were killed in an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team on Tuesday in Lahore. Police are searching for up to 12 gunmen who "appeared to be well-trained terrorists", according to the city's police chief.

Police in Pakistan are searching for up to 12 gunmen who ambushed vehicles carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team to a match in Lahore.

The attackers are believed to be holed up in a commercial complex in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city.

The masked gunmen opened fire on the Sri Lankan team's bus and security convoy with assault rifles, grenades and rocket launchers, killing eight people and wounding at least six team members.

Police sources said the dead included two civilians and six police officers who were part of the players’ security detail.

A 25-minute gun battle with security forces followed the attack, which targeted the team as it arrived for the third day of its second test match against Pakistan.

While the identities of the masked gunmen remain unknown, Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman told AFP, "They appeared to be well-trained terrorists."

Weapons like those sold in tribal north-west

Matthieu Mabin, a FRANCE 24 correspondent in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, said some of the weapons the attackers left behind are commonly sold in the markets of Peshawar, in Pakistan’s north-west near the Afghan border. Mabin said one hypothesis could be that the attackers came from the tribal zones near the border.

FRANCE 24’s Stephan Kloss, also in Islamabad, said the decision to target this game in particular was to "embarrass the authorities" and the Pakistani government.

President Asif Ali Zardari imposed two months of governor’s rule — direct rule by his representative — in Punjab province, which includes Lahore, on February 25 after a Supreme Court decision barred members of the opposition from taking office.

Under the current political circumstances, Zardari and the provincial governor are "directly responsible for security", Kloss said.

Ashiq Hussain Qureshi, France’s honorary consul in Lahore, told FRANCE 24 that the attack was a blow to Pakistani cricket, which has often suffered because of security concerns. The national team of India cancelled their 2009 tour in Pakistan after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.

Security forces not "well prepared"

The Sri Lankan team had chosen to ignore the potential security threat.

"After a long time and a lot of convincing, the Sri Lankans were very kind to come to Pakistan and support us, support the cause of Pakistani cricket, which has been hit very badly because of the terrorist threat," said Qureshi.

Qureshi said the security forces protecting the Sri Lankan visitors should have been better prepared.

"There was fighting going on for half an hour," Qureshi told FRANCE 24. "And yet, nobody was captured." The security forces are "not as well prepared as they ought to be", he said.

Date created : 2009-03-03