Sri Lanka, ICC condemn deadly attack on national cricket squad

The Sri Lankan government has chartered a plane to evacuate its national cricket team from Pakistan, after eight squad members were injured during an attack by unidentified gunman on Tuesday.

The gunmen opened fire on the team as they travelled by bus from a hotel to the cricket ground in the eastern city of Lahore, killing several police and injuring a number of players and the team's Australian coach Trevor Bayliss.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission says two players - Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana - were treated for injuries in hospital but are stable.

The Sri Lanka Cricket Board says Bayliss, together with Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Suranka Lakmal, captain Mahela Jayawardene and Chaminda Vaas, sustained minor injuries.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse has ordered the Foreign Minister to fly to Pakistan to oversee the evacuation of the team in a specially chartered plane.

"Cowardly attack

Mr Rajapakse condemned the attack as a "cowardly terrorist attack," his office said.

"The Sri Lankan players had gone to Pakistan as ambassadors of goodwill," Mr Rajapakse said in a statement.

Lahore Police chief Habib-ur-Rehman says five police were killed in the attack by unknown gunmen, who fired AK47s and rockets, and hurled grenades at the bus as it slowed at a traffic circle near the 60,000-seater Gaddafi stadium.

"Police are chasing the terrorists," he said.

"They appeared to be trained men."

Pakistani civil defence experts also defused two car bombs and recovered a stash of weapons after the ambush.

'Terrifying experience'

Australian freelance cameraman Tony Bennett was at the cricket ground when the attack took place.

"We heard a bomb go off, rapids rounds of machine gun fire outside the ground, small arms fire," he said.

"Next thing we knew, the Sri Lankan team bus rolls up being sprayed by bullets. Players (were) getting carried into the dressing room."

Gavin Scovell, the director for the Ten Sports television channel, witnessed the shooting.

"There was no panic, the guys were brilliant," he said.

"They looked fine. A couple of the players that I know, I made sure were okay. I could see a few wounds but they weren't panicking, they were very calm. With all respect to them, it must have been a terrifying experience for them."

'Good relationship'

The Sri Lankan team's media manager in Colombo, Charith Senanayake, says the cricketers have had a good relationship with Pakistan.

"They were in Pakistan a few weeks ago," he said.

"We played three one-day [matches] - we came back, we had absolutely no problems over there.

"Over the past few years we have had a very solid relationship with Pakistan so we never expected this kind of reaction from Pakistan."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has expressed dismay and sadness in the wake of the attacks.

"We note with dismay and regret the events of this morning in Lahore and we condemn this attack without reservation," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in a statement after the attack.

"It is a source of great sadness that there have been a number of fatalities in this attack and it is also very upsetting for the wider cricket family that some of the Sri Lanka players and one match official have been injured in this attack.

"At this time our thoughts and prayers are with the injured people and also the families of those who have died," the statement added, referring to the Pakistani police officers who were killed.

Five policemen were killed in the attack, according to Lahore police officials, but other reports said up to eight people lost their lives.

Australian sympathies

Former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody says he is "shocked and saddened" by the deadly attack.

Moody, who coached the Sri Lankan national team from 2005 until just after the 2007 World Cup, was shaken by the news reports from Pakistan.

"I was very shocked and saddened to learn of the news coming from Lahore of the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus earlier today," Moody said in a statement.

"My thoughts and prayers are not only with my friends in the Sri Lankan cricket team, but with the families of everyone that has been killed or injured in today's attack."

Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland also sent his condolences in a statement.

"Early reports are unclear but we are deeply saddened to hear reports that security officials in Pakistan have been killed in this attack," he said.

"We will be seeking to talk to Sri Lankan and Pakistan cricket officials as soon as possible to pass on our condolences."

Cricket Australia says it will examine security arrangements ahead of the series between Australia and Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in April.

Chief executive James Sutherland says at this stage the series will go ahead as planned.

"There are of course [risks] with any tour that we play overseas, it is always subject to the latest security advice we have," he said.

"We'll go through our normal courses of pre-tour visits and other things ahead of that tour."