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After shock,rage: No security,insider role,say Lankans

Careful not to affect ties with Pakistan,Sri Lanka’s government steered clear of the war of words over security lapses in Lahore...

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
March 6, 2009 1:26:11 am

Careful not to affect ties with Pakistan,Sri Lanka’s government steered clear of the war of words over security lapses in Lahore which led to the attack on its national cricket team but the sense of outrage among cricketers and officials spread today with Lankan icon Muttiah Muralitharan and umpire Simon Taufel slamming Pakistani security arrangements. The off-spinner even suggested that the terrorists may have had inside information on their movements.

“Somehow,in this incident,there were no police with guns on the bus. If someone was there with a gun we would have had a chance to defend ourselves,” Muralitharan told Adelaide’s Radio 5AA. He said both the Sri Lankan and Pakistani teams and match officials set out together for the Gaddafi stadium on the first two days of the Test match. But on the third morning,Sri Lanka left five minutes before the Pakistani squad.

“We left at 8.30. (Pakistan captain) Younis Khan said they were going at 8.35. So there were two escorts — we got one escort,and they had one. Normally when all buses go,about four or five escorts go,so they said divide it into two. May be they (the terrorists) got well-known information… for the right time.”

“There were gunshots on and bullets were passing us. I saw (Tharanga) Paranavitana bleeding in the chest. I thought he was gone,actually. Thilan Samaraweera was bleeding,Kumar Sangakkara was bleeding from the shoulder. There was blood everywhere. It was frightening,” Muralitharan said.

He later told The Indian Express: “I don’t want to say anything more than what I have already said. There was too much of coincidence in it (the events).”

Samaraweera,who received bullet injuries on his thigh,told The Indian Express from a Colombo hospital that he thought he would die. “I’m very happy that my operation was successful and I can play cricket again. When it happened,I thought I would die. I owe my life to the bus driver who got us away to safety.”

Team manager and former Test player Brendon Kuruppu said they had approached the authorities for more security due to the political unrest in Lahore,but had been told that the security detail provided was enough. “We’re not experts,so we take what we’re told on face value,” Kuruppu told The Indian Express.

Australian umpire Taufel and English match-referee Chris Broad were travelling with other match officials in a van behind the the Sri Lankan bus,and while the team managed to get away from the scene of heavy cross-fire,Broad said they were left behind as “sitting ducks”.

“At every junction from the hotel through to where we were attacked and all the way to the ground,there were police in light blue uniform with handguns,controlling traffic,” Broad said. “How did the terrorists come to the roundabout and how did they start firing and (why did) these guys not do anything about it? There were plenty of police there,yet these terrorists came in,did what they had to do and then went again.”

Taufel said the security personnel abandoned their van. “You tell me why no one was caught. You tell me why. Supposedly 25 armed commandos were in our convoy,and when the team bus got going again,we were left on our own,” he said on his return to Sydney today.

“It’s just a game of cricket,this is not a war. On Tuesday morning,we were caught in a war,we were in a war zone. Sometimes if we have a bad day out on the field and perhaps we don’t get everything right,at least we say nobody’s died. Well on Tuesday,people died and as I was just expressing to my family,I can’t explain why I’m here. There is no reason for us to still be here… I can’t explain it.”

Taufel described the moments when his van’s driver,Mohammad Zafar,was killed after being shot in the neck and head. “That’s when his foot basically hit the accelerator,which was in neutral… it was revving quite loudly. I recall the ambulance was still on our left-hand side and the door opened at one point and I thought,you beauty,someone’s come to get us out. It turned out to be a policeman who basically was diving over the top,shut the door behind him and was trying to save his own life.”

“To which Chris Broad said,‘what are you doing in here,you should be outside defending us’. Chris then asked him to get in the front seat and drive. He said,‘I can’t drive,I don’t know how to do drive’. We were basically left there stranded and helpless.”

Meanwhile,Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ejaz Butt accused Broad of making “fabricated,untrue and obnoxious” remarks about the security arrangements for the Sri Lanka team and said they would lodge a complaint with the ICC. “What he has said about the security is untrue and fabricated. Broad has made obnoxious comments,” Butt told reporters in Lahore.

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