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Despair, anger reign supreme

Shock. That was the first reaction when initial footage showing two gunmen firing at a bus full of Sri Lanka cricketers was shown on television.

world Updated: Mar 04, 2009 00:38 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Shock. That was the first reaction when initial footage showing two gunmen firing at a bus full of Sri Lanka cricketers was shown on television.

Residents scurried to the nearest television and computer screen to find out what was happening in Lahore. Groups stood in front of TV screens in shops and malls with hands on their heads.

The news spread like wild fire and the shock gradually made way to disbelief and anger. "How could they do this? For God's sake, these are players not politicians,'' Danuskha, a University of Colombo student, said.

"Why was the team sent to Pakistan? There have been assassinations and major attacks on five-star hotels there. The government took a huge risk,'' said Janaka, an entrepreneur.

The rest of Sri Lanka was praying with Janaka. Newspaper offices were flooded with calls to find out the condition of the players.

A terrorist attack is not unique to this island nation. In the 26 years of fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the country, and especially Colombo, has weathered hundreds of bomb blasts and suicide attacks. But there has not been a single instance where the Tigers targetted cricketers or any sportsperson.

"Who would have thought our cricketers would actually be attacked there. We are fighting a war for nearly three decades and it has never happened here,'' said Selvaraj, a property consultant.

By evening, people were relieved to know that none of the cricketers was seriously injured and would be flying back at the earliest. Chandani, a bank executive, said, "Is it worth it? Risking your life to a play a game? They should just come back now.'' An official close to the cricket establishment said Sri Lanka should have checked before going to Pakistan. said.

I was involved in initial talks: Ranatunga Venkat Ananth adds from London: Former Sri Lanka Cricket chief, Arjuna Ranatunga, said, "I am shocked. It is sad that terrorists have started attacking sportsmen."

On security he said, "When I was the Asian Cricket Council chairman last year, I visited Pakistan during the Asia Cup and they had A-grade VVIP security. Maybe this was a lapse on their part.

SL President Rajapakse condemns attack
Agencies add from Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse condemned the attack. "I condemn this cowardly terrorist attack targeting the Sri Lankan cricket team," he said in a message sent from Nepal, where he is on an official visit. "The players had gone to Pakistan as ambassadors of goodwill.