Sri Lankan cricket team attacked in Pakistan

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LISA MULLINS: Just imagine: your favorite sports team goes abroad for a game and ends up a target of a terrorist attack. That's what happened today to the national cricket team of Sri Lanka. The team was in Pakistan for a match. Masked gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying the cricketers as it traveled through the city of Lahore, Pakistan. Eight members of the Sri Lankan team and staff were wounded; six Pakistani policemen and a driver were killed. Abbas Nasir is the Editor of Pakistan's largest English daily newspaper, Dawn. Can you tell us why on earth anyone would attack these sportsmen?

ABBAS NASIR: You know, it is quite clearly terrorists who are hell-bent on destabilizing Pakistan. They would be comrades-in-arms to the people who carried out the attacks in November of last year in Mumbai. Their agenda is to derail the peace process between India and Pakistan; their agenda is to destroy all semblance of normality and stability in Pakistan as well, and to demonstrate to all and sundry that they can hit where they want and how they want.

MULLINS: So you're saying that they actually hit the Sri Lankan team, but that their real goal was to hurt, and in some way cripple the government of Pakistan?

NASIR: Absolutely. I mean, it's like, you know, I mean cricket in the subcontinent is like if you're in Boston, you're heading to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game, and who would, in their right mind, assume that somebody would be insane enough to target either [SOUNDS LIKE] sides or teams going to play there. So it's clearly�they have no animosity or scores to settle with the Sri Lankan team; I think they have a point to prove. My sources tell me that this was a botched attempt at taking hostages, making hostages of the Sri Lankan team because the arms and armaments that the gunmen left behind after the attack demonstrated that this wasn't ammunition for an ambush nearly, but for a longer siege that was planned. So this was very nasty and I'm so glad the Pakistani received the Sri Lankans, who took a brave step of coming here when Pakistan has been ostracized. But they've escaped, and escaped rather lightly.

MULLINS: Well, we should say that the Indian team and Australian team had both backed out because of security concerns, which is why you're giving credit to the Sri Lankan team for coming to begin with. What do your sources tell you about the suspects themselves, and were any of them apprehended?

NASIR: None of them have been caught, and that's why everybody is describing it as a security lapse. I mean, security was supposed to be absolutely top-notch, you know. I mean, not a bird is allowed to move overhead and, you know, sort of the whole route is lined, snipers sitting on rooftops. Clearly, there was a security lapse. I think it was a flash of brilliance by the driver of the coach that was the carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers, because he just drove through a hail of bullets and didn't stop, and I think the terrorists wanted to stop the vehicle. But he just kept driving, and it think that's what saved the day because with 30 bullet holes in the coach, and minimal injuries to the Sri Lankans, one can say it was a miraculous escape. And I think the government of Pakistan and the security establishment owes a huge explanation to the Sri Lankan cricketers and the government of Sri Lanka, who took a leap of faith and look what happened.

MULLINS: What's the reaction of the people of Pakistan to the attack?

NASIR: I think by and large, the people that we've talked to, the people have expressed great disgust, shock and anger because it is� you know, cricket here is a second religion, and I think, you know, all the anti-American sentiment that has been expressed of late, because a lot of Pakistan blames American meddling in Afghanistan, as they see it, and in Iraq as being the primary cause of Islamic militancy in the country; even those people today were only blaming the militants for bringing a bad name to the country and for thwarting any future playing international cricket in the country. It's really like taking away the NFL from the state; you know, it cannot be imagined - that huge body of sports fans can live without cricket, and international cricket at that.

MULLINS: All right, speaking to us from Karachi, Pakistan, Abbas Nasir, Editor of Pakistan's Dawn newspaper and Dawn News TV. Thanks a lot.

NASIR: Thank you.