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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chris Broad: Attack on Sri Lankans

LONDON, March 4: ICC match referee Chris Broad has suggested that someone had advance knowledge of the attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in Lahore and held back the Pakistan players’ bus to keep them out of danger.

The Briton said on Wednesday that he had no evidence of a conspiracy, but pointed out that the bus carrying the Pakistan team in Lahore departed on its journey to the Qadhafi stadium five minutes after the Sri Lanka bus.

About a dozen gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka convoy, killing six policemen and a driver. Seven Sri Lanka players were injured.

Mr Broad said that, although the teams travelled at different times in a previous test match, the buses had travelled together on the first two days of the second test in Lahore. The Sri Lanka team was attacked on its way to play the third day.

“On the first two days both buses left at the same time with escorts,” he told reporters following his arrival back in Britain. “On this particular day, the Pakistan bus left five minutes after the Sri Lankan bus. Why?

“I thought maybe they were having five or 10 minutes more in the hotel and would turn up later, but after this happened you start to think, ‘Did someone know something and they held the Pakistan bus back?’ ”

The Pakistan Cricket Board had already reacted angrily to Mr Broad’s earlier suggestion that security forces had left players and officials like “sitting ducks”. But Mr Broad reiterated his view that the security was too lax.

“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 uniforms with handguns controlling traffic,” he said. “How did the terrorists come to the roundabout and how did they start firing and these guys not do anything about it? There were plenty of police there and yet these terrorists came in, did what they had to do and then went again. It is beyond me.”

Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan backed up the Briton. “Somehow in this incident there were no police with guns on the bus,” Muralitharan told Australia’s Radio 5AA. “If someone was there with a gun, we would have had a chance of defending ourselves. “Normally all the buses go and we have four or five escorts. We left at 8.30 am, and (Pakistan captain) Younis Khan at 8.35 am. We divided into two. Maybe they knew the information for the right time.”

Mr Broad, a former England cricketer who was officiating between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, escaped injury in Tuesday’s attack but said police totally deserted the buses. “There was not a sign of a policeman anywhere,” he said. “They had clearly left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks.”

PCB chief Ijaz Butt contested Broad’s interpretation of events. “How can Chris Broad say this when six policemen were killed?” he told The Associated Press in Pakistan, adding that he would comment further after speaking to the Englishman on Thursday.

Read it all here.

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