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Five Sri Lankan cricketers hurt in Pakistan attack

FIVE members of the Sri Lankan cricket team were wounded when around a dozen gunmen attacked their bus as it drove under police escort today to a stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore, officials said.

Lahore Police chief Habib-ur-Rehman said five police were killed in the attack by unidentified gunmen who fired AK 47s and rockets and hurled grenades at the bus as it slowed at a traffic circle near the 60,000-seater Gaddafi stadium.

"Police are chasing the terrorists," he said. "They appeared to be trained men."

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer told reporters the assailants had been surrounded after being chased into a nearby commerical and shopping area.

"We were very fortunate to escape serious injury," a Sri Lankan player, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters by telephone.

Sri Lanka's sports minister said five players and an assistant coach were wounded, two of whom were being treated in hospital.

It was unclear whether injuries were caused by bullets, shrapnel or flying shards of glass.

The attack had echoes of one on the Indian city of Mumbai last November, which led to the Indian cricket team cancelling its planned tour of Pakistan.

"One thing I want to say it's the same pattern, the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai," said Governor Taseer.

India blamed that attack on Pakistan-trained militants and the incident sharply raised tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The group blamed by India, Lashkar-e-Taiba, came from Pakistan's Punjab province, whose capital is Lahore.

Pakistani stocks were down over 2.47 percent in early trade on Tuesday following the attack on the cricket team bus.

The Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark 100-share index was 2.47 percent, or 140.22 points, lower at 5,541.022 on turnover of 16.8 million shares by 10:40 a.m. (0540 GMT).

"This is not only an attack on the Sri Lankan team but on Pakistan as Pakistan is being put in isolation due to these attacks," said Shuja Rizvi, director broking at Capital One Equities Ltd. "Who would want to invest then in Pakistan?"


Sri Lanka, which had been invited to Pakistan after India pulled out, immediately cancelled the rest of the tour.

"We are trying to bring the team back as quickly as possible," a Sri Lankan cricket official said.

Pakistan TV showed footage of gunmen with rifles and backpacks running through the streets and firing on unidentified vehicles.

"I saw them from the window of my office firing at the police escort first. When the police dispersed after the shooting, they started firing at the bus of Sri Lankan team," Mohammad Luqman told Reuters.

The driver of the Sri Lankan team coach said one of the attackers had thrown a grenade under the bus, but it did not detonate.

Another witness told Reuters he believed two police commandos were killed along with a regular policeman and a traffic warden.

Shopkeeper Ahmed Ali said the two police commandos had been driving behind the team bus when they were hit.

"It was a very heavy firing and I heard at least two explosions at the time," said a Reuters witness who had been on his way to cover the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Sri lankan and Pakistan media said Thilan Samaraweera seemed to be the worst hit, suffering a thigh injury. The other Sri player admitted to hospital was Tharanga Paranavithana.

It was the second day of their second test match and being plaed at the venue where Sri Lanka won cricket's world cup in 1996, beating Australia in the final

Until this series Pakistan had gone without test cricket for more then a year because of security issues.

In 2002, a bomb exploded in Karachi while the New Zealand cricket team were touring, killing 13 people including 11 French navy experts.

The tourists, based at the Pearl Continental Hotel, were preparing to depart for the National Stadium for the start of a match when a car exploded outside the nearby Karachi Sheraton. New Zealand called off the tour within hours of the attack.


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