Twelve armed assailants launched a bold military-style attack on the Sri Lankan national cricket team and their police convoy in Lahore on 3rd March 2009. The attack resulted in the deaths of six police officers and injuries to at least six cricketers. The attackers then fled the scene on motorised rickshaws. The Lahore police chief and a Sri Lankan official confirmed the incident. The assailants used assault rifles, grenades and anti-tank missiles to ambush the cricket team bus. Some Pakistani officials compared the audacity of the attack to the Mumbai attacks in November. The police reported that six officers were injured and two bystanders were killed.
In a country rife with strife between the government and insurgents associated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and suspected by some neighbouring nations of providing refuge to terrorists, the assault on 3rd March was expected to have a significant and long-lasting impact on Pakistan's global reputation and self-perception, particularly with regards to its athletic relationships with other countries.
Why Does It Count As The Black Day For Cricket ?
On 3rd March 2009, during the transportation of the Sri Lankan cricket team to Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, twelve gunmen opened fire on their bus as part of a larger convoy. The cricketers were en route to play the third day of the second Test against the Pakistani cricket team when the attack occurred. Six members of the Sri Lanka national cricket team were injured, and six Pakistani police officers and two civilians lost their lives.
In December 2019, Sri Lanka agreed to participate in a two-match test series in Pakistan, marking the return of test cricket to Pakistan after a decade since the terror attack.
The status of Pakistan as a global cricketing destination came under scrutiny when unidentified assailants assaulted the Sri Lankan cricket team's bus route to the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on the third day of the second Test.
The attack resulted in minor injuries to five cricketers, including captain Mahela Jayawardene and his vice captain Kumar Sangakkara. Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera, and Tharanga Paravitarana were also hurt in the incident, which caused the deaths of six security personnel and two civilians. This was the first instance of sportsmen being deliberately targeted since the 1972 Munich Olympics when Palestinian militants killed 11 Israeli athletes. The Lahore Test was instantly cancelled, and the tour was called off, much to the dismay of a country that had not hosted a Test match in over 14 months.
About The Attack
As per the authorities, a dozen armed men were concealed near Liberty Square, situated at the heart of Lahore, lying in wait for the Sri Lankan team to cross their path en route to the Gaddafi stadium. When the bus approached the street, they commenced firing. The escorting Pakistani police retaliated, resulting in the demise of six policemen and two civilians in the crossfire. After about 20 minutes of combat, the militants fled, leaving behind rocket launchers and grenades.
The gunmen initially targeted the bus's wheels and then shot at the bus and its passengers. They also aimed a rocket at the bus, which missed and hit an electric pole nearby. Despite this, the driver of the bus Mehar Mohammad Khalil continued driving for approximately 500 metres (1,600 ft) until they reached the stadium. Khalil was later presented with the Tamgha-i-Shujaat award for his valour. The attackers had also hurled a grenade beneath the bus, which exploded after the bus had passed over it.
In addition, the minivan that trailed the team bus carrying the match referee and umpires was also fired upon, resulting in the driver's death. Simon Taufel, Steve Davis, Nadeem Ghauri, Ahsan Raza, umpires performance manager Peter Manuel, liaison officer Abdul Sami, and ICC match referee Chris Broad were among those present in this minivan. Subsequently, security personnel allegedly abandoned the minivan, and no bullets were fired by the security forces for twenty minutes. Chris Broad covered Ahsan Raza with his body and applied pressure to his chest to slow down the bleeding from a bullet wound. A police officer who sought refuge in the minivan drove it to safety.
Footage from security cameras captured several gunmen carrying automatic weapons and backpacks, firing on the convoy from the Liberty Square roundabout.They were later seen running up the street and escaping on motorcycles. The video was shown worldwide, displaying the images of the attacks. The CCTV footage has been released publicly. They arrived at 8:39 am local time and left at 8:46 am.The attackers possessed AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades, RPG launchers, claymores, and explosive charges.
Investigation Related to Attack
Immediately after the incidents, Pakistani authorities accused the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is backed by Pakistan. Pakistani officials claimed that the attacks resembled the Mumbai attacks. Most of the Pakistani media attributed the attacks to Pakistani Islamist militants and Al-Qaeda. The police suggested that kidnapping might have been a motive, but they did not comment on this.
On 4 March, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama stated that he could not exclude the possibility of involvement by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Lahore attacks. Some European intelligence sources supported this suspicion. However, Sri Lankan military officials were doubtful about LTTE's involvement, and an LTTE spokesperson denied any connection to the attacks. A junior Pakistani cabinet minister claimed that the attackers had come from India. On 6 March, government officials ruled out the involvement of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing and LTTE and focused on Lashkar-e-Taiba.
On the day of the attack, the Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricket teams did not leave the hotel together, unlike previous days, and the Pakistani team's schedule was delayed by five minutes. Statements made by Australian umpire Simon Taufel, match referee Chris Broad, and spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, regarding this delay, led to conspiracy theories that the militants had inside information. Later, Muralitharan expressed concern about such interpretations of his comments and clarified that he only suspected the gunmen of monitoring the team's movements.
The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Robert Mueller, arrived in Pakistan the day after the attacks and met with Pakistani officials to discuss security issues and the Mumbai attacks
Interior Adviser Rehman Malik informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on the Interior that there was no evidence of LeT's involvement so far and that sufficient evidence had surfaced indicating the involvement of a foreign entity.
Conclusion and People Opinion
The assault hit not just a significant metropolis in Pakistan but also the nation's most favoured pastime - a sport pursued with nearly fanatical interest by numerous in the vicinity. Rashid Latif, a previous captain of the Pakistan cricket team, stated to Reuters, "In spite of the circumstances prevailing in the country, cricketers have never been targeted in Pakistan." He added, "Today marks a sombre day for Pakistan cricket and the nation as a whole."
Haroon Lorgat, the chief of the International Cricket Council, global regulatory authority of the sport, expressed his opinion in London that it is unlikely to witness international cricket being played in Pakistan in the near future.