Arrests made in hunt for Sri Lanka cricket attack gunmen


Cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene reacts Wednesday after returning to Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo.
Pakistani police made several arrests Wednesday as they continued to hunt for the gunmen responsible for an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team which left seven dead.

Authorities have offered a 10 million rupee ($125,000) reward for information leading to arrests. They also released photos of two suspects involved in the ambush on the visiting team’s convoy Tuesday as players and match officials made their way to Lahore’s cricket stadium, killing six police officers and a driver. Two Sri Lankan players — Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilan Samaraweera –suffered gunshot wounds although their conditions are not life threatening. Six other players were hurt by shrapnel and glass. Sri Lanka’s cricketers returned home to Colombo early Wednesday. “We are very lucky that no one [sustained] any serious injuries and everyone is in good shape,” one player told reporters upon arriving in the capital. “There are a few more guys who need more time to recover. And we can hopefully put this behind us and move forward.” The attack happened Tuesday at about 9 a.m. (11 p.m. ET Monday), as the visiting Sri Lankan team’s bus approached Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for a match against Pakistan. See a map of where the attack took place » The brazen daylight attack sent shock waves across the cricket-crazy region and raised fears about the future of world cricket matches in Pakistan, which has been reeling from a string of terrorist attacks. iReport: Send us your videos, photos “The events can only be described as shocking, and we send our sympathy to the relatives of those who lost their lives,” International Cricket Council President David Morgan said at a news conference in London Tuesday. “On many occasions we’ve been told that cricketers would never be targeted in Pakistan. And this morning’s events have proved that to be quite incorrect.” Watch ICC’s reaction to the attack »

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ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said none of the teams had been threatened before Tuesday’s attack, which happened about 150 meters from the stadium in Lahore. Investigators cannot yet say who was responsible for the ambush. Watch footage of the gunmen staging their attack » Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari praised Pakistani police, saying the officers “rose to the occasion and laid down their lives to protect our Sri Lankan guests.” He also telephoned Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to express his condemnation and regrets, and to emphasize his determination to investigate. Watch Sri Lankan’s foreign minister condemnation of the attack » Teams have long stayed away from Pakistan, concerned about the security situation in a country that is battling an escalating pro-Taliban insurgency. But Sri Lanka — a country enduring its own civil war with separatist rebels — agreed in December to visit for a series of matches, after the Indian cricket team called off its tour following the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai in November. Indian authorities blamed those attacks on Pakistan-based militants. The Pakistan Cricket Board had said it was set to lose more than $16 million as a result of India’s cancellation, but the Sri Lanka visit was to help it recoup most of the costs, officials said. The Sri Lankan offer to tour was a reciprocal gesture. Pakistan was one of two countries that agreed to tour Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup tournament, while other countries refused to travel there because of security concerns. With this attack, fans now worry that Pakistan won’t be able to co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Morgan said the ICC’s board will be meeting in April to consider whether the Cup will include stops in Pakistan. “The board will have to think very carefully about the extent to which Pakistan will be used for that event,” Morgan said. “It’s a very important event, but the safety and security of players, officials and supporters is very important and the board will be taking that into account.” Read profiles of the wounded players » “This has really damaged Pakistan,” former Pakistani cricket player Zahir Abbas told Geo-TV. “Already some teams didn’t want to come to Pakistan. Now who will come after this incident”

John Stern, the editor of cricket magazine Wisden, said it was “not possible” to imagine international cricket taking place in Pakistan in the near future. He described the situation for the sport in the country as “desperate.” Watch how attack strikes at legitimacy of Pakistani government » He said one possibility for the Pakistani team is to play its matches in the United Kingdom, which has a large Pakistani community.

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