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At least six people were killed and eight injured when gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team and match officials in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Tuesday. The attack has been widely condemned and is being seen as an indication of the country's deteriorating security. Many in the cricket community say that this attack will be the death knell for international cricketing contests in Pakistan, which is scheduled to cohost the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
According to the BBC, a gun battle raged between militants and the Sri Lankan team's police escort near the main sports stadium in Lahore on Tuesday morning. At least five policemen and a driver were killed, and seven team members and an assistant coach were wounded, reports the news service.
Reports suggest 10 to 12 gunmen ambushed the team coach and its accompanying police detail on a roundabout in the heart of Lahore, as the convoy was on the way to the Gaddafi stadium for a Test match.
The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says accounts suggest the attack was sophisticated in nature, with one group of gunmen firing a rocket-propelled grenade in order to create a diversion, while others then approached, firing guns on the convoy.
She says the gunmen – two of which were shown in TV pictures carrying backpacks – seemed to be well-trained.
The gun battle lasted between 25 and 30 minutes, reports Agence France-Presse. According to Lahore police chief Habibur Rehman, the gunmen "appeared to be well-trained terrorists. They came on rickshaws. They were armed with rockets, hand grenades, kalashnikovs."
According to the international cricketing website CricInfo.com, no one on the Sri Lankan team was critically injured in the attack.
In an eyewitness account published by Al Jazeera, Gaven Scovel, a producer with TV Ten, reports that the militants surrounded the Sri Lankan team's bus.
The two gunmen fired indiscriminately into the bus and everybody dived at the ground, a few of them were hit but luckily by glancing blows, and no one was killed.
The match referee just spoke to me in a blood-stained shirt and was a bit shaken up. The two umpires are okay, the fourth umpire was shot in the back and is in critical condition at the hospital where he was immediately taken. The driver of the police minibus, however, was shot dead.
The Pakistani English-language daily Dawn reports that eight people were killed in the attack. An eyewitness indicated to the newspaper that police backup was slow to arrive to the scene of the attack, which began around 8:30 a.m.
[Eye witness Qasim] pointed out that police officials did not arrive at the scene until 9:15am. They rushed to the roundabout and cordoned off the area, while ambulances started shifting the injured and the dead to the hospitals. Edhi ambulances were the first to arrive at the scene but high ranking police officials did not arrive until at least an hour had passed since the incident.
"Because the police were protecting them [Sri Lankan team], we were the main victims," said Rehman. "They [the gunmen] looked like trained people. The security provided was good."
Tuesday's attack was widely condemned by the international and cricketing communities. According to the Associated Press, Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa called the attack "cowardly." Meanwhile, the Indian Congress termed the attack "horrendous" and "unbelievable," reports The Hindu, an Indian daily.
Agence France-Presse reports that India's home minister slammed Pakistani security as "hopelessly inadequate."
The Indian government, which had ordered its players to steer clear of Pakistan, said the incident proved Islamabad was not doing enough to combat known militant networks.
A Pakistani official has compared the attack with the attacks on hotels in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in November 2008, reports Reuters.
The attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan on Tuesday bore the hallmarks of the same militants that carried out the attack on Mumbai in November, a senior Pakistan official said on Tuesday....
"I want to say it's the same pattern, the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai," Salman Taseer, governor of central Punjab province, told reporters at the site of the attack.
"They are trained criminals. They were not common people. The kind of weaponry they had, the kind of arms they had, the way they attacked ... they were not common citizens, they were obviously trained."
"Pakistan will certainly be a no-go zone for at least two years," [Fox Sports cricket commentator Brendon Julian] said after the attack on Sri Lanka's team bus....
"No national board will even contemplate the idea of sending a team to Pakistan following this attack."
Indeed, former captains of the Pakistani cricket team have already stated that Pakistan's chances of cohosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup have disappeared, reports Reuters.
The attack comes at a time of heightened political instability in the province of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital. A ruling by the country's Supreme Court last Wednesday disqualified the main opposition party from politics, sparking widespread protests against the government, reported The Christian Science Monitor.