Sri Lanka's Cricket Team Attacked In Pakistan

Officials say gunmen in east Pakistan opened fire on a vehicle carrying members of Sri Lanka's national cricket team. Several players were wounded and five police officers were killed. Security concerns have plagued Pakistan for years and some foreign sports teams have refused to play there.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

In Pakistan, numbers of heavily armed gunman attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team today. The team was on its way to a match in the city of Lahore. Several players were wounded. Five police officers were killed in the attack, which is sure to raise tensions in the region. The incident comes just three months after the deadly assault in Mumbai. NPR's Philip Reeves is at the scene in Lahore and joins us now. Good morning, Phil.

PHILIP REEVES: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: Can you give us a picture of just what happened?

REEVES: Yes, the Sri Lankan cricket team was traveling in a bus to the cricket ground and it was under police escort. And when it reached a circle, a big circle in the middle of Lahore, it was basically ambushed by anything between seven and 12 gunman. Those gunman arrived by car. Some of them blocked off the traffic. Others of them advanced towards the coach and the police escort van and opened fire on it. And one of them fired a rocket propelled grenade. We're not sure whether the idea was to hit the coach with that or whether it was diversionary. It landed in the front of a shop. Gunfire sprayed all over the area. The police were hit and killed, and the players and the coach dived for cover.

WERTHEIMER: Are there any obvious suspects? Anybody know who did this?

REEVES: Well, the range of possible suspects is quite large. It could be the Taliban and al-Qaida, who are fighting in the northwest of Pakistan against the Pakistani military. Suspicions abound, though, to point at the possibility that this is Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same group that carried out the attacks in Mumbai in India; it's a jihadi group related to Kashmir. And also let's not forget there's a civil war going on in Sri Lanka in which the government there is close to inflicting a complete military defeat on the Tamil Tiger separatists that they've been fighting for a quarter of a century. And so some are suggesting that we shouldn't rule out the possibility this is the Tamil Tigers. But no one knows the answer to that question for sure.

WERTHEIMER: Phil, were any of the gunman killed or captured?

REEVES: No, they escaped and there's a search going on right now in Lahore for them. The police have set up some checkpoints. There's a much larger than usual presence of the security forces on the streets of Lahore, and they say that they're making an effort to find these guys. There's some interesting footage shot perhaps on a mobile phone or on some armature device that's emerged which shows these gunmen actually shooting, two of them standing on the circle walking backwards very coolly, shooting at the bus belonging to the Sri Lankan cricketers and the police escort van.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's South Asia correspondent Philip Reeves is in Lahore, Pakistan. Thanks very much, Phil.

REEVES: You're welcome.

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