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Sri Lanka Condemns Attack on Cricket Players

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Sri Lanka is evacuating its cricket team from Pakistan in the wake of an attack by gunmen which wounded several players and an assistant coach.  However, Sri Lankan authorities say they are not ruling out future cricket tours to Pakistan.    

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse called the attack on the country's cricket team touring Lahore a "cowardly terrorist attack" against the country's "ambassadors of goodwill".

But Sri Lankan authorities have not blamed Pakistani authorities for any laxity in security arrangements.  Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona says little can be done to stop such an attack. 

"I believe they [Pakistan] did their best," Kohona said.  "But there is no guarantee against terrorists these days.  We know this is our part of the world.  A determined and well-organized terrorist group can attack us anywhere, anytime."

Gunmen fired and hurled grenades as the bus carrying the cricketers drove with a  police escort Tuesday morning to a stadium in Lahore.  Several cricketers and their British assistant coach were wounded.  Several policemen and civilians were killed in the attack.

Two Sri Lankan players: Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana - were treated for injuries at a hospital.

The Sri Lankan cricket team had agreed to tour Pakistan soon after India called off a tour, citing security concerns in the wake of the terror strikes in Mumbai last year.  The Sri Lankan decision to play in Pakistan was seen as a boost for the country, to which several other cricket teams have chosen not to travel. 

Sri Lanka has scrapped the present cricket tour, as its players head back to the country.  Many in the country, including fans and cricket officials, have expressed shock and anger at the attack on the cricketers.  But Foreign Secretary Kohona says Sri Lanka is not ruling out future tours to Pakistan.  He says the threat of terrorism is always prevalent in South Asia.

"We sincerely hope things will improve in Pakistan," he said,  "the security situation will improve, because Pakistan is a great cricketing nation, and it is always a challenge to play them."

Sri Lanka is no stranger to terrorism.  The rebel group known as the Tamil Tigers has been blamed for numerous deadly terror strikes in the country, including suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of people.

But Sri Lankan authorities ruled out the possibility that the Tamil Tigers, who rarely launch attacks outside the country, had any links to the terror strike targeting the cricketers. They say they will wait for investigations to be conducted in Pakistan.

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